The Carolina Hurricanes have a date with the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Thanks to their come-from-behind, 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 on Thursday night, the Hurricanes eliminated the Nashville Predators and advanced to the second round of the Central Division playoffs where they will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After falling down by two goals midway through the second period, the Hurricanes turned up the pressure on Nashville goalie Juuse Saros and were finally able to break through thanks to their top players. Sebastian Aho was one of the biggest drivers of the comeback, scoring a power play goal late in the second period to cut the deficit to 3-2 heading into the third period.
Aho then scored the game-winning goal in overtime when he deflected a Jaccob Slavin shot by Saros.
While Saros did everything he could to preserve Nashville’s lead, Carolina’s relentless third period push proved to be too much for him and the Predators to hold off. Saros was one of the biggest factors in Nashville’s second half turnaround, and the Predators were relying on him to single handedly protect their lead in the third period. For a while it seemed like it was going to work and perhaps push the series to a decisive seventh game. But that hope started to slip away when Carolina tied it late in the third period.
Dougie Hamilton, who has had a bit of a quiet series until Thursday, scored the equalizer late in the third period off of a set faceoff play where Nashville’s defense simply lost track of him, giving him an easy backdoor tap-in goal.
Hamilton also made a great play on Aho’s first goal to keep the puck in the offensive zone and get it on net for Aho to deflect it in.
Thursday’s game was the fourth consecutive overtime game in the series. Nashville won Games 3 and 4 in double overtime to even the series, while Carolina was able to take Games 5 and 6 on goals from Jordan Staal and Aho to clinch it.
This is the second time in three years that Carolina has advanced to at least the Second Round.
The Hurricanes will now play a Tampa Bay team in the Second Round that they split the regular season series with, winning four out of the eight head-to-head matchups.
HURRICANES VS. PREDATORS (CAR wins 4-2) – series livestream link
Game 1: Hurricanes 5, Predators 2
Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0
Game 3: Predators 5, Hurricanes 4 (2OT)
Game 4: Predators 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT)
Game 5: Hurricanes 3, Predators 2 (OT)
Game 6: Hurricanes 4, Predators 3 (OT)