Nashville, TN -- After three straight overtime games, the Carolina Hurricanes (3-2) and the Nashville Predators (2-3) meet tonight with the series on the line.
Carolina beat Nashville 3-2 on Tuesday night, with Canes captain Jordan Staal getting the overtime winner. It was Staal's fourth goal, the most of any player in the series.
Nashville will need another victory at home to stave off elimination and force a Game Seven in Raleigh.
"When you have a chance to close out another team, you don't want to give them another chance," Canes alternate captain Jordan Martinook said. "So, we obviously know they're going to be a desperate team, but we're going to be just as desperate because we know we want to close it out."
For Carolina, they'll need to do what neither team has done thus far--win a game on the road.
To do that, the Canes will need to break a four-game losing streak in Nashville. After closing the regular season with two losses in Bridgestone Arena, the Canes lost Games Three and Four in double-overtime.
A win tonight would not only snap the road losing streak; it would send the Canes through to a second-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We're going to have to go earn this win," Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Everybody always says 'this is the toughest win,' and [it is] because the other team is desperation level is as high as it can be. We're going to have to match that."
Jaccob Slavin's return for Game Five was crucial for the Canes. Now the question is: will he be available for Game Six? Slavin logged a team-high 26 minutes of ice-time in Game Five.
"Well, I thought [Slavin] looked great, played great," Brind'Amour said. "Going forward, I'm avoiding him; I just want to make sure he gets out there."
While the Canes' head coach said this last line with a laugh, a setback for Slavin would be no joke. If the alternate captain can't go for Game Six, Carolina will have a huge gap to fill on the blue line.
That said, Slavin was a full participant in Thursday morning's skate. Brind'Amour was optimistic that the Canes' lineup should remain the same from Game Five.
Alex Nedeljkovic's (3-2, .927 SV%, 2.10 GAA) breakout season rolls on. The rookie is now one win away from leading his team into the second round of the playoffs. His marks for saves (165), GAA, and save percentage all rank in the top 10 among playoff goalies with 4+ games played.
Like Nedeljkovic, Juuse Saros (2-2, .928 SV%, 2.59 GAA) has turned in some memorable performances this postseason. But in Game Six, the pressure will be dialed up a notch. Nashville has given three or more goals in every game in the series. Doing that for the sixth time might spell the end of their season.
The Canes' expected lines:
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Nino Niederreiter — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas
Warren Foegele — Jordan Staal — Jesper Fast
Jordan Martinook — Steven Lorentz — Brock McGinn
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Scratches: James Reimer, Max McCormick, Drew Shore, Morgan Geekie, Cedric Paquette, Joakim Ryan, Ronald McKeown, Maxim Lajoie, Jake Gardiner
Nashville's expected lines:
Filip Forsberg — Ryan Johansen — Matt Duchene
Eeli Tolvanen — Mikael Granlund — Luke Kunin
Nick Cousins — Erik Haula — Calle Jarnkrok
Yakov Trenin — Colton Sissons — Mathieu Olivier
Roman Josi — Alexandre Carrier
Mattias Ekholm — Ryan Ellis
Ben Harpur — Matt Benning
Scratches: Dante Fabbro, Erik Gudbranson, Viktor Arvidsson, Brad Richardson, Tanner Jeannot