How the Nashville Predators Have Rallied to Tie the Series with Carolina

Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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You think we would have learned in the regular season not to ever count out this Nashville Predators team, but here we are going toe-to-toe with the highly-touted Carolina Hurricanes.

With the series tied 2-2 heading back to Carolina for Game 5 on Tuesday, the Nashville Predators are riding high after back-to-back double overtime wins. Just pure insanity with this team that just refuses to back down.

The latest overtime hero is Luke Kunin, who actually scored twice in the game, which was the fourth-longest gap between goals by a player in a single game in NHL history, per Preds PR:

We’d be robbing you off revisiting the glory of both game-winners scored in double-overtime over the weekend, so here you go:

Saros continues to play on historic level

You just can’t say it enough how vital Juuse Saros is to the Nashville Predators. It’s not to say that other players aren’t stepping up and making clutch plays, but Saros is absolutely the main reason the Predators are not only tied in this series, but even in the playoffs to start with.

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Saros now has 171 saves on 184 shots faced through the first four games. That brings his save percentage to a very respectable .929 percent. He’s a big reason why the Predators penalty kill has been so successful at stopping the Hurricanes to just two power play goal on 14 attempts.

Narrowing the special teams gap was critical going into this series, and while the Predators power play still needs a lot of work, Saros is holding up his end of the bargain while the Canes are on the power play.

Saros is the caliber goaltender that can steal a series and carry a team deep into the playoffs. Pekka Rinne did that in the 2017 playoffs, and there’s no reason to think Saros can’t do the same thing in these playoffs.

Nashville Predators veterans have responded

After the Predators fell behind in the series 2-0 and had just two goals to show for it, it was time to call out the top players on the roster. The ones who are getting the biggest contracts and have been here the longest.

The two games in Nashville saw players like Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Ellis and Ryan Johansen step up in big ways to keep this team alive. The Predators held serve at home thanks to these players, and others, coming up big in clutch moments.

Duchene had the game-winner in double overtime of Game 3 with a sweet goal to beat Alex Nedeljkovic, while Johansen has also scored a clutch goal to put the Predators ahead in Game 4.

Johansen now has two goals in the series, as does Forsberg. Ellis has chipped in with three assists and one goal, so the veterans who have been rightfully criticized for not showing up in Games 1 and 2 are now starting to produce.

Looking ahead to Game 5

The Predators have already shown they belong here with arguably one of the best teams in the NHL. They’re hanging right there with the Hurricanes, and even in the two losses they still had a chance to win going into the third period.

For the Predators to take a firm grasp in this series by winning Game 5, it’s going to take a strong effort in front of Saros once again through special teams play. The Predators can’t continue to live dangerously by letting Carolina pile up the shots on goal.

If the Predators can keep most of the game at even strength, I like their chances of pulling off another win to at least stretch this to seven games. If it comes in Game 5, then you better believe Nashville will be the loudest it’s been in quite some time for Game 6.

The Predators are matching the physicality that Carolina has played with, but the speed is still an issue. Often times the speed has burned the Predators defense, and Saros has either bailed them out or let a goal get by him.

My original prediction going into the series was Hurricanes in six games. I’m obviously hoping I’m wrong on that, but I also am worried that the Hurricanes might wake up and play their best game of the series in Game 5 to take back control.

No matter what happens from here on out, the Predators have definitely shown they’re a valiant team that doesn’t fold to playoff pressure. They have shown that sneaking into the postseason field was no fluke, and that maybe a full on rebuild isn’t as necessary as we through just three months ago.