The Predators fell to the Hurricanes in Game 2 and are now down 0-2 in first round of playoffs. Photo by Brooks Bratten
By Ron Wynn
The Nashville Predators did a lot of things right in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, yet find themselves down 2-0 going into Friday night’s third contest at Bridgestone Arena. Their hopes of getting a split in Game 2 Wednesday night were erased due to the razor sharp goaltending of Hurricanes rookie Alex Nedeljovic and the offensive prowess of Sebastian Aho. Nedeljovic stopped all 32 Predators’ shots, while Aho scored the game’s first goal in the opening period and then got a second one with 53 seconds remaining to seal what ultimately became a 3-0 victory. Warren Fogele’s final goal with 32 seconds left was the final score in the Hurricanes’ win.
The Predators kept the Hurricanes offense in check through most of the game. Aho’s first goal came early in the first period. The Predators again got superior goaltending from Juuse Saros, whose 28 save effort included at least six excellent stops on either breakaways or two-on-ones, some of them off shorthanded situations. The Hurricanes were called for seven penalties, the most they’ve had during any game this season, but the Predators’ power play couldn’t score on any of them. In two games the Predators are now scoreless in 10 power play chances. Fortunately, they also killed off every Hurricanes’ power play.
Unlike Game 1, which was tied 2-2 going into the third, the Predators didn’t allow Carolina to break things open until the final minute of the last period. The Hurricanes scored three goals in Game 1’s third period, the last being an empty netter. One of the two that came in  Wednesday’s game was also when Saros was on the bench, and the Predators were frantically trying to tie the score with an extra attacker. Aho outraced the Predators defensemen to a loose puck, nullifying what would otherwise have been an icing call, and scored into the empty net, clinching the game.
Each team was missing a key player. Calle Jarnkrok was out for Nashville with an undisclosed non-COVID illness, while Jacob Slavin, one of the Hurricane’s top defensemen, also was out for Game 2. The Predators also made some lineup changes, most notably breaking up the usual number one defense pairing of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. Josi lined up with Alexandre Carrier, while Ellis was matched with Mattias Ekholm. Eeli Tolvanen was also back in the lineup and also on the power play.
The Predators have now lost eight of 10 games to Carolina this season, regular season and playoffs. They were considered one of the biggest underdogs among first round teams, and they’ve got to win both home games to have any chance of winning or even extending  the series. Still, for long periods of both games they’ve been very competitive with Carolina. Their hope is returning home to what should be a capacity crowd thanks to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions will give them the lift that gets them back into this series.
Game 4 will be Sunday, also at Bridgestone Arena.