Predators return home hoping to level series with Hurricanes

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May 25, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) and defenseman Matt Benning (5) battle for the loose puck against Carolina Hurricanes left wing Steven Lorentz (78) during the second period in game five of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The home team has won the first five games of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes.

The Predators hope that trend continues Thursday night when they return to home ice to face the Hurricanes in Game 6. Carolina leads the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Jordan Staal scored 2:03 into the first overtime in Game 5 on Tuesday to give Carolina a 3-2 win in the third straight overtime game in the series.

“The way I look at it, we finally got a bounce, something that went our way, that we really haven’t had this series,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That was nice.”

Predators hoping to level series with Hurricanes

Just about everything had gone Carolina’s way against Nashville during the regular season and through the first two games of this series.

Carolina won the first six games in the regular season against Nashville before dropping the final two, when the Hurricanes had already locked up first place in the Central Division.

The Hurricanes then won the first two games of this series by a combined score of 8-2 before the Predators got home to Nashville and scratched out back-to-back double-overtime wins in Games 3 and 4, tying the series before Carolina regained the advantage Tuesday.

“We’re excited to go home,” Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “Those two games at home were unbelievable. The crowd always gives us (an) extra boost at home, and we know it’s going to be rocking in there.”

“It’s such a tight series,” Josi said. “There’s a lot of chances on both sides, and they just found a way to score in OT tonight. It’s a tough loss for us, but we’re still in the series and we have to go home and win one.”

Viktor Arvidsson could return

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Apr 13, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) celebrates the goal of right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville needs all the firepower it can get for Game 6, and veteran forward Viktor Arvidsson could return after missing the past two games with an upper-body injury.

Arvidsson was fifth on the Predators with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 50 games during the regular season, and owns extensive playoff experience, totaling 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 61 postseason games.

Either way, Nashville coach John Hynes said he remains confident that his team can rebound once again.

“We’ve been in these situations before,” Hynes said. “I think we’re programmed, we’re ready, our guys respond. I think we’ll certainly be ready to go for Game 6 and really excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us.”

The Hurricanes welcomed back a key player for Game 5, and Jaccob Slavin made a big difference, Brind’Amour said.

Slavin returned after missing the previous three games with a lower-body injury and the defenseman assisted on the tying goal by Martin Necas with 7:05 left in the third period. He was also on the ice for the game-winning goal.

“It’s awesome to get back out there and battle with the guys,” Slavin said. “They’ve been battling hard this whole series. Watching, I don’t like it. I get more nervous.”

Slavin was also on the ice when the Hurricanes appeared to score the tying goal just past the midway point of the second period, but the Predators requested a video review for goalie interference and the goal was disallowed, creating some controversy. Despite that emotional setback, the Hurricanes still rallied to tie the score in the third period and win in overtime.

“There’s a goal that gets taken off the board that you think is a goal,” Brind’Amour said. “What else can happen? But these guys stuck with it, and we’re still around, and that’s what’s great.”

If Nashville extends the series by continuing the trend of victories for the home team, Game 7 is set for PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

–Field Level Media