RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Jordan Staal scored off a rebound at 2:03 of overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night for a 3-2 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Staal was jostling with Nashville’s Ryan Johansen for position just outside the crease when Brett Pesce fired a shot toward Juuse Saros on a 4-on-4 sequence. Saros made the stop and poked the puck forward, but Carolina’s captain batted the puck out of the air and past Saros to seal the win.
Staal gave a yell and immediately skated backward with his arms outstretched until he reached the boards, where his teammates mobbed him in front of a roaring home crowd of 12,000.
Staal’s score ended what was the third straight game to go to extra time, with the Predators winning a pair of grueling double-overtime contests in Games 3 and 4 in the best-of-seven series. This one, however, moved the Hurricanes within a win of closing it out and advancing in the postseason.
They’ll get that chance on the road in Game 6 on Thursday night.
Martin Necas scored twice for Hurricanes. Yakov Trenin had two goals for Nashville.
The Hurricanes flirted with becoming the first team to lose on home-ice in the series on a tough night that included having a second-period goal disallowed after a Nashville challenge for goaltender interference. They trailed 2-1 midway through the third period before Necas scored his second goal on a terrific individual effort.
Necas charged up the ice on a one-man push, speeding past Matt Duchene to get behind the net and beat Saros with a wraparound score at 12:55 that sent a jolt through the Hurricanes lineup and rowdy home crowd.
Necas’ first goal came when he buzzed a puck over Saros’ left shoulder and by his helmet for the first-period score on the power play.
Trenin scored twice to lead the Predators’ offense, while Saros turned in yet another steady performance in net that continued to befuddle Carolina’s skaters. He finished with 34 saves after racking up 110 stops through the two double-overtime wins that knotted the series at 2-2.
Once again, he repeatedly turned away clean looks by the Hurricanes while his teammates clogged up lanes to block shots or frustrate Carolina’s ability to get traffic in front of Saros above the crease.
Alex Nedeljkovic had 23 saves for Carolina in his fifth start in as many playoff games.
Country music singer and past “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery, from nearby Garner, sounded the pregame storm-warning siren for when they Hurricanes take the ice for home games.
North Carolina Central men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton and former North Carolina basketball star Tyler Hansbrough — the Tar Heels’ all-time scoring and rebounding leader — sounded the siren during the intermissions.
The list of siren sounders this series has included North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, rapper Petey Pablo and Duke football coach David Cutcliffe.
The Predators announced Tuesday morning that the NHL has approved their request to increase their home capacity for Game 6 to 14,107 fans. That will be up roughly 2,000 from the Games 3 and 4 capacity of 12,135 fans in Bridgestone Arena.
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