PREVIEW: Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators on rise ahead of matchup

Jan 18, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save on a shot by Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Consecutive wins over the Central Division’s top team don’t have the Carolina Hurricanes crowing about themselves.

After beating the Florida Panthers twice in a row in extra time, the Hurricanes head into a Tuesday road clash against the Nashville Predators knowing full well they weren’t perfect in those victories.

“Good teams find ways to win,” Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce said after the Monday win. “You’re not going to be your best for all 82, or whatever this is — 56 games. You’ve got to find a way no matter how it is, and if it takes a hot goalie to bail us out … then so be it.

“It was a gutsy win, and we all know we can clean it up.”

The Hurricanes required a 44-save performance from goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, Vincent Trocheck’s late overtime-forcing equalizing tally with their goaltender pulled and then a highlight-reel-worthy winning goal from Martin Necas to win a second straight over the Panthers.

Necas had a three-point game.

“It’s always good to win, no matter how you do it,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, that’s not how you would draw it up. The third period was shaky for us. We were on our heels. We seem to never quit.

“It looked like it was going to go the other way tonight, and we bounce back. Give the guys a lot of credit for digging in.”

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Carolina’s consecutive wins follow three straight losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Hurricanes arrive in Nashville having cobbled together a 7-3-1 mark in their past 11 outings.

The Predators are also riding a modest two-game winning streak, having beaten the Columbus Blue Jackets a couple of times on the weekend, and Nashville has won four of five games.

“I feel like we’re realizing what makes us successful and what makes us a team that’s tough to beat,” Predators forward Erik Haula said. “We’re trending toward the right direction. Our game is more consistent, and we’re finding some good combinations, and with that, we’ve had some success lately. Hopefully, we can keep that going.”

The Predators sit sixth in the Central Division, eight points out of a playoff spot, so they are facing an uphill climb, but they are starting to believe in themselves after a tough first 16 games (6-10-0).

“Our game is trending in the right direction,” Nashville forward Nick Cousins said. “The last five games we’ve had a lot of consistency with our defense, (they’re) getting the forwards the puck really quickly, and it makes our transition game that much more effective.

“We’ve got to keep it going. I mean, obviously we’ve dug ourselves in a hole here that we’ve got to get out of, but I really liked our game. I think we’re trending in the right direction, so it’s good to see.”

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Among the positives for the Predators has been their special teams. Their power play has scored five goals in the past five games (5-for-16) while their penalty kill has been perfect in snuffing 19 short-handed situations over the past eight outings. Ultimately, the Predators are improving in all areas and building momentum.

“I’d say it was a few games back, we really talked about certain things and did some things in practice, and I think when you have the opportunity to win games, certainly your confidence and your puck decisions get better,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “But before that, before you get those wins, you have to do things that are going to give you the ability to find ways to win. …

“Now that we’re finding some results, I think it always helps grow confidence and poise, and execution always comes along with that.”

–Field Level Media