The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t mean to play from behind all the time, they just … did. It didn’t end up costing them in the first round against the Nashville Predators after they rallied from behind in Game 6 in the wee hours Friday morning.
But it could cost them dearly against a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning — or any other team remaining in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour acknowledged multiple times throughout the series, and again after Game 6, that it wasn’t an ideal way to start a game or a period.
“That’s obviously not something we want to keep up,” Brind’Amour said matter-of-factly after the Game 6 win.
And the Canes didn’t fall behind in only one or two games, nor did the quick goal against happen just once in any of the games. This truly was a first-round trend:
• In Game 1, Filip Forsberg gave the Predators a 1-0 lead 12:14 into the game. Teuvo Teravainen equalized 1:27 later.
• In Game 2, the outlier, the game was still tight throughout. Despite a 3-0 final, two of those goals came in the game’s final minute as the Canes’ Alex Nedeljkovic earned his first playoff shutout.
• In Game 3, Ryan Ellis scored for Nashville just 4:35 into the game. The Canes equalized, took the lead, and gave up the lead again, all before the start of the third period, which also started with a quick Nashville goal. Brett Pesce’s late third-period strike forced overtime.
• In Game 4, Luke Kunin made it 1-0 for the Preds just 57 seconds into the game. Ryan Johansen scored early in the second to snap another tie. Both times the Canes equalized, and yet another double-OT game went the home team’s way.
• In Game 5, Yakov Trenin kept the trend alive, though it took a while — nearly 12 minutes — for the Preds to take a 1-0 lead. Trenin added another just 53 seconds into the second, though, in another period with a slow start.
• Thursday in Game 6, with a chance to eliminate the Predators, the Hurricanes once again played from behind. This time, Nick Cousins redirected an Eric Haula slap pass into the cage just 1:44 into the contest. Brock McGinn tied the game for Carolina in the first, but again in the second, Nashville struck quickly, at 1:13.
And with a chance to move on, it was this most recent example that was head-scratcher. Though Brind’Amour was quick to point out that although the Canes fell behind, they also clawed their way back into each one.
“To flip that, we’ll fight back,” Brind’Amour said. “I think that’s the thing. We’re not trying to give up the first goal, but the fact that if we do, it’s not over. I think that’s a real confidence boost to this team moving forward.”
The players have adopted Brind’Amour’s grind-it-out mentality, something he played with, and something he’s obviously coached up among his players.
“We’re a resilient group, we just keep playing no matter what happens,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who scored the third-period equalizer on a set play on an offensive zone faceoff. “We just keep going, keep going, keep going. It’s been like that for a couple of years now.”
Thursday, McGinn picked up the pieces early, netting his third of the playoffs 2:37 after Cousins’ opening marker.
“This series we kind of got behind the eight-ball most of the games, so I think we did a good job of fighting back and not quitting on the games,” McGinn said.
But, McGinn said: “We have to do a better job of not putting ourselves in those scenarios.”