NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sebastian Aho scored his second goal of the game 1:16 into overtime to send the Carolina Hurricanes to the second round with a 4-3 comeback victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night in Game 6.
The Hurricanes will play defending champion Tampa Bay, the No. 3 seed in the Central Division.
Carolina won its fourth straight game with a chance to end a series. The Hurricanes are 12-10 in franchise history in clinching games, and they improved to 5-2 on the road in Game 6 with a 3-2 lead.
Aho stunned the largest crowd to see an NHL game this year when he scored so quickly after overtime started for the fourth straight game in this series. Defenseman Jacob Slavin shot the puck, and Aho tipped it in.
Brock McGinn and Dougie Hamilton each had a goal and an assist apiece for Carolina. The Hurricanes now have won four straight games with a chance to clinch a series.
Nashville led 3-1 in the second period and 3-2 in the third when the Hurricanes spent much of the period in front of Nashville goalie Juuse Saros.
Hamilton tied it with 6:01 left in regulation after Saros stopped the Canes’ first 13 shots in the period. He scored from the right edge off a pass from Jaccob Slavinn off a faceoff.
Nashville fell to 1-10 in series when trailing 3-2, and the Predators now are 7-8 in Game 6s.
Mikael Granlund had a goal and an assist, and Ryan Johansen and Nick Cousins scored for Nashville. Saros finished with 27 saves.
The Predators once again had the largest crowd yet this year in the NHL with 14,107 in the stands after another increase in capacity. CeCe Winans, a 12-time Grammy winner, handled the national anthem, and at least three catfish hit the ice as she finished.
Nashville also scored the first goal of the game for the fifth time in this series with Cousins deflecting Erik Haula’s shot past Alex Nedeljkovic to crank fans up even louder. Carolina answered back quickly, tying it at 1-1 with McGinn skating around the net and shooting from the edge of the right circle at 4:20.
Granlund put Nashville back up 1:13 into the second, tapping in Ryan Ellis’ shot from the left edge of the crease behind Nedeljkovic. Johansen gave Nashville its first multi-goal lead of this series at 2-1, deflecting Roman Josi’s shot in at 7:32 of the second with the Predators on a 5-on-3.
Aho pulled the Hurricanes to 3-2, deflecting Dougie Hamilton’s shot from the point at 13:34 with 15 seconds left on the man advantage. Hamilton got the puck off an attempted clear by Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm.
This was just the sixth time Carolina has rallied from a multi-goal deficit to win a playoff game and only the second in a series-clinching game. The last was Game 7 of the first round in 2019.
The Hurricanes defenseman now has two assists in as many games. He has 17 points through 26 career postseason games. He also has 14 assists, most by a defenseman in franchise history, breaking a tie with Dave Babych and Bret Hedican.
Johansen had essentially been benched from the power play unit in Games 3, 4 and 5 playing only a combined 28 seconds in those games. He came out in this game on the first man advantage and played 4:37 on the power play.
He scored his team-high third goal of the series with a couple seconds left in the 5-on-3, helping Nashville improve to 3 of 25 on the power play against Carolina this postseason.
Johansen has two goals and five assists in nine games with Nashville facing elimination. He tied James Neal for second among Predators players in such games, trailing only Filip Forsberg with six goals and four assists in 12 games.
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