The play of Juuse Saros in the second half is the single biggest reason the Nashville Predators were able to turn their season around and secure a playoff spot in the Central Division.
He is now one of the biggest reasons they are going back to Carolina for Game 5 on Tuesday night with a tied series.
Saros was sensational on Sunday afternoon, stopping 58 out of 61 shots in a 4-3 double overtime win to even the series.
It is Nashville’s second double overtime win in as many games, and the second game in a row that Saros stopped more than 50 shots. That makes him just the second goalie in NHL history (joining Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003) to have multiple 50-save wins in the same postseason. He is also just the second goalie top at least 50 shots in back-to-back playoff games, joining Curtis Joseph (Joseph did not win both games).
Statistically speaking, Carolina has been the superior team throughout the first four games of the series. They held an 8-2 goals edge going into Game 3 when it shifted to Nashville and they have been dominant territorially. But nothing can change a team, a season, or a series quite like goaltending, and right now Nashville has one of the league’s hottest goalies.
Including Sunday’s win, Saros has a .930 save percentage for the series and is picking right up where he left off in the regular season when he helped turn the Predators’ season completely around. Now he is giving them a fighting chance against one of the league’s best teams in the playoffs.
While Saros was keeping the puck out of the net on Sunday to will the Predators to another win, Luke Kunin was the offensive star of the day. Kunin opened the scoring with a goal just 57 seconds into the first period to give Nashville an early lead, and then won it double overtime when the Hurricanes lost track of him in the slot.
Given the way this series has played out Nashville might need three more games like this from Saros if they are going to have a chance. The good news for them is he has been playing like this for three months now and is showing no signs of slowing down. That is good news for the Predators and has to be troublesome for the Hurricanes.
HURRICANES VS. PREDATORS (Series tied 2-2) – series livestream link
Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Predators 2
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 (2OT)
Sunday, May 23: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT)
Tuesday, May 25: Predators at Hurricanes TBD
*Thursday, May 27: Hurricanes at Predators TBD
*Saturday, May 29: Predators at Hurricanes TBD