The Nashville Predators were seven minutes and five seconds away from bringing a 3-2 series lead against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference back to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
Instead, the Predators find themselves in win-or-go-home mode after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
“It’s a tough loss for us,” Preds star Roman Josi said. “I think in the third we were in control of the game, and they obviously scored…It’s such a tight series and there’s a lot of chances on both sides and they just found a way to score in OT tonight. We’re still in this series.”
What makes Tuesday’s loss such a gut punch for the Predators is the fact that they were staring down a potential series-clinching Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena and couldn’t close the door.
The series has gone back and forth like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a Wimbledon final. Game 1 was tied heading into the third period before Carolina eventually pulled away. Carolina held a 1-0 lead in Game 2 until the final 53 seconds before pulling away again. Then each of the next three games were decided in overtime, two needing double overtime.
If the Predators end up losing the series, they will point to Tuesday’s Game 5 and say, “That was our missed chance.”
Nashville executed its game plan to perfection and still lost. The Predators frustrated the Hurricanes for the better part of two periods, clogging the lanes and blocking 16 shots to Carolina’s 12. They even forced the Hurricanes into 21 giveaways. For comparison’s sake, Nashville had only four giveaways.
No team has truly dominated the other in the series. But if you had to point to a single stretch of dominant hockey for the Predators in this series, the second period through 12:55 of the third period on Tuesday night was it.
“It’s been three overtime games now in a really competitive series,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “I think Game 1 we weren’t at our best. Game 2 we know what happened with special teams, but the 5-on-5 game was there. We went home and found a way to win two hard-fought battles…This is what playoffs are.”
Carolina is a team that doesn't let its opposition ruffle its feathers too often. Tuesday was perhaps the first time Nashville had done so. The Predators have done well to hang with the Hurricanes for this long. But not coming back to home ice with a 3-2 series lead could be the dagger that does them in.
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