Nashville Predators Complete Wild Playoff Push, Officially Clinch

Nashville Predators left wing Erik Haula (56) celebrates with teammates after scoring an empty net goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators left wing Erik Haula (56) celebrates with teammates after scoring an empty net goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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They definitely made us sweat it out, but the Nashville Predators secured the franchise’s 14th playoff appearance and seventh-straight dating back to 2014-15.

The Predators came into their Saturday night matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes still looking for their first win of the season series as they were meeting for the seventh time. The Hurricanes had outscored the Predators 23-9 over those first six games, so tensions were high on if the Predators could finish off this playoff push.

How the Nashville Predators got the win

Despite the Hurricanes being a high-scoring and fast team, it remained scoreless going past the midway point of the 2nd period before Luke Kunin finally broke open the scoring off of one of the prettiest passes you’ll ever see from Mikael Granlund.

Here’s a look at the goal from NashvillePredators.com:

Kunin has became a major spark for the Predators over the last month or so scoring eight of his 10 goals on the season in that time span. He would score once again in the 3rd period with just over 12 minutes left in regulation on another assist from Granlund.

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The Hurricanes would respond quickly less than two minutes later by getting in close on Juuse Saros and Morgan Geekie slamming it in. I think we all had a nervous feeling in the pit of our stomachs after the Hurricanes responded so quickly.

To the credit of the Predators, they locked in defensively after that. Saros would go on to finish with 21 saves to further strengthen his season totals to be Vezina Trophy worthy.

The empty netter by Erik Haula with just over a minute left in regulation would ultimately seal it for the Predators as the Bridgestone Arena crowd went nuts. Considering where this team was back in early March, this is definitely one of the sweetest playoff clinching wins we’ve seen in a while.

It was an inspired effort defensively for the Predators as they tallied 16 blocks and laid out 23 hits while the Hurricanes also failed to connect on their lone power play attempt.

Still lots to play for in Monday’s season finale

The Predators still have one more game left on the regular season as they’ll face the Carolina Hurricanes again on Monday. The Hurricanes are still playing for the President’s Trophy, so they’ll have something to play for in that regard.

This game is important for the Predators to work on some things as they get ready for their first round series with Carolina. Clearly the Hurricanes are the much better team and have owned the season series, but the Predators need to work out the adjustments and play well in the season finale.

We’re all obviously hoping and expecting to see Pekka Rinne get what could very well be his final start in a Predators uniform. So despite there being no implications on playoff seeding for this game, it will still be an important one to go out and win.

And now that this team is finally close to being at full strength, there’s really no more excuses. The Predators have to go out and embrace that underdog mentality just like they did in 2017 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

What else can you say about this Predators team other than they were fortunate to get such stellar play from Saros down the stretch that bailed them out on many occasions. Also, a lot of credit is certainly owed to Head Coach John Hynes for keeping this team together through all of the adversity to nab this playoff spot.