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Jordan Staal. That's it. He was the difference
Just ask his head coach.
"Jordan Staal won us the game," Rod Brind'Amour said. "He was a monster in every aspect. Our penalty kill was great. Who's part of that? Our power play came through. Who's part of that. In overtime, who scores the goal?"
Staal got his team on the board on the power play, which fueled the Canes' second period comeback, with a chip shot over Pekka Rinne's right shoulder. The goal was Staal's fifth on the power play this season.
Video: NSH@CAR: Staal buries a feed in front of the net
The Canes were discombobulated for much of overtime, and then the Canes' captain grabbed the puck and raced down the left wing. He used his big frame to easily shrug off the pestering reaches of Eeli Tolvanen before firing a wrist shot off the far side post and in.
Video: NSH@CAR: Staal second goal wins it in overtime
"He's always been the same guy. He works hard. He's the leader on and off the ice. He takes huge draws. He kills penalties. He's been good on the power play," Sebastian Aho said of Staal. "Just the difference is that he's producing more points, but he's always been the same player to me. He's always been a great player."
The Turning Point
For a while, it seemed as though it might just be one of those nights. There was a power-play sequence in the second period that kind of underscored that feeling. Nashville had a 1-0 lead at the time, and in the span of about six seconds, the Canes could have scored three different times, but it just wasn't quite there. Aho misfired on a one-timer attempt, Andrei Svechnikov tried to shovel in the rebound off the end boards and Staal had a whack at the puck at the top of the crease, but to no avail.
Ryan Johansen stretched the Predators' lead to 2-0 with a redirection in the slot a short time later.
It just seemed like it might be one of those nights.
And then it didn't.
The tides shifted as the Predators came off their game and began taking liberties, and the Canes rallied.
Dante Fabbro left his feet and brought his elbow high, making direct contact with Brock McGinn's head along the boards, a hit that was perplexingly ruled only a minor penalty instead of the more appropriate major. Fabbro should face supplementary discipline.
"That was a pretty questionable hit, honestly. It was kind of surprising that's all that came out of it, just the two minutes. Brock is one of the hardest workers on the team," Alex Nedeljkovic said. "To see a hit like that hit a nerve with some guys and really kind of sparked us and kind of got us going in the right direction."
"How you respond to everything is critical," Brind'Amour said, and Staal got the Canes on the board on the ensuing power play.
"It was a tough hit. Brock's our toughest guy on the team, so when he goes down it's not a good feeling," Staal said. "It was good to see him back out on the ice, and we're happy he's all right. Our power play wanted to get one for him, and I thought it got us some momentum."
A short while later, after Mathieu Olivier dangerously carved Nino Niederreiter up high with his stick, the Canes had 14 brief seconds of a two-man advantage, but that's all they needed. Dougie Hamilton swung the puck over to Aho for the one-timer, who scorched the puck past his countryman in net to tie the game two before the second intermission.
Video: NSH@CAR: Aho hammers home a one timer on power play
"The power play got us back in the game, and special teams overall was huge today," Aho said. "It's a good thing to get a win when you don't play your best game."
Plus: Special teams
While the Canes' 5-on-5 game wasn't clicking, special teams play was, and that allowed them to snag two points when maybe they deserved a lesser fate. The power play finished 2-for-6 on the evening, the two goals coming at the exact time the Canes needed them, down a pair late in the second period. The penalty kill was an unblemished 5-for-5.
"I think 5-on-5 we could have been a lot better. What made the difference tonight was special teams," Staal said. "Our power play came up big to get us in the game. Those are big. You've got to win that battle every night if you want to win games."
Minus: Much of everything else
Aside from the penalty kill and special teams, the Canes were just kind of … the shrug emoji. And overtime?
"It was not one of our better overtimes," Brind'Amour said. "It was kind of indicative of our whole game. We were loose and casual."
Luckily, Staal and the Canes' special teams made enough of a difference, and Nedeljkovic came up with 21 saves in the victory.
And, hey, the Canes came away with two points, so everything else is only a "minus" in execution - not results.
5-2-1: Nedeljkovic won his third consecutive start to improve to 5-2-1 on the season. He owns a 2.21 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage and is a perfect 3-0-0 at PNC Arena this season.
6-0-0: The Canes are 15-2-1 this season when scoring one power-play goal and a perfect 6-0-0 when netting two.
6: Vincent Trocheck recorded a pair of assists on the power-play to extend his point streak to six games (4g, 4a). Dougie Hamilton also recorded a primary helper to extend his assist streak to six games (7a), the longest such streak by a Canes player this season.
Quote of the Night
"He's got a lot to be confident about. He's been a great player for a long time in this league. He's won a Stanley Cup and played with some great players. He's off to a really hot start, and he's building off it every game. … It's not really that big of a surprise." - Alex Nedeljkovic on Jordan Staal
The Canes and Predators will renew pleasantries on Thursday evening.