NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators are finding that neither a broken stick nor back-to-back double overtime games can stop them.
Not with the biggest crowds for an NHL game this season behind them and goalie Juuse Saros in net.
Luke Kunin scored his second goal at 16:10 of the second overtime after breaking his stick as the Predators beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 on Sunday, tying the series at 2-2.
Kunin broke his stick in the neutral zone and went to the bench where equipment manager Pete Rogers had a replacement ready. Kunin then skated up the slot and beat Alex Nedeljkovic off a pass from Mikael Granlund.
Nashville coach John Hynes said they gave Rogers a round of applause in the locker room for having a stick ready as Kunin neared the bench. After the exchange, Kunin took advantage of the Hurricanes not picking him up.
“He's coming into the zone a little bit later, so it's quite a little bit tougher read for their D to see him coming in late in that," Hynes said. “A heck of a play by Granlund to be able to find him there.”
Saros made a franchise-record 58 saves to ensure this series will return to Nashville. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Carolina.
“He’s a stud," Predators center Ryan Johansen said. "He’s a big part of our team success and our success rate in these last two games. ... He's going to keep doing his thing, and we’re going to keep counting on him.”
Johansen and Nick Cousins scored, and Mattias Ekholm and Mikael Granlund each had two assists.
This was the first time both teams had gone to multiple overtimes in back-to-back games in a series. Nashville improved to 5-3 winning consecutive double overtime games, while Carolina dropped to 1-7 overall with one loss while still the Hartford Whalers.
“It's been a battle,” Kunin said. “I thought our team got better as the game went on.”
Brock McGinn had his first two-goal in the postseason, and Vincent Trocheck also had a goal for Carolina. Jordan Martinook added two assists.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” McGinn said. “You never want to lose in overtime. You work so hard to get into double overtime there and to lose both of them, it’s not easy.”
The catfish had been barely carried off before a raucous crowd when Nashville caught Carolina in a line change, and Kunin beat Nedeljkovic with a backhander through his legs at 57 seconds for his first this series. Trocheck tied it, batting in the puck off Martin Necas' shot in a flurry around Saros at 18:03 of the first.
Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour complained about how his Hurricanes were fighting the refs after 14 penalties through Games 2 and 3. They had twice as many power plays as the Predators in this game, but went 0 for 4.
“I think we were the better team in that game,” Brind'Amour said. “You want better. You feel like you deserve better. It doesn’t work that way as we know. We have to, as a group, regroup and come back. It’s cliché. What’s done is done. We’re moving on.”
Johansen put Nashville back up 2-1 at 4:53 of the second, reaching around Matt Duchene to backhand the puck past Nedeljkovic off the rebound of a shot by Duchene. The Predators had a rare 2-on-0 chance a couple minutes later, but Nedeljkovic stopped Yakov Trenin with his right pad.
McGinn tied it at 2 with with 1:55 left in the second. His slap shot from the outside edge of the left circle went in off the far post. McGinn missed the final 19 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury.
He then gave Carolina its first lead at 3-2 with a wrister 13 seconds into the third, beating goalie Juuse Saros stick-side.
But the Predators, 1 of 17 on the man advantage in this series, tied it up on their first power play in this game. Dougie Hamilton tripped Nashville captain Roman Josi, and Cousins redirected Erik Haula's shot at 3:15 for his first career playoff goal in his 25th game after not dressing in Games 1 or 2.
They got another when Svechnikov went in the box at 5:15 for cross-checking but couldn't beat Nedeljkovic.
SAROS IN NET
The Predators goalie came in having made 113 saves through the first three games of this series, the most saves by a Nashville goalie through the first three games of a postseason. Saros tied the franchise-record with 52 saves in Game 3 and set it in Game 4.
He became the second goalie since 1955-56 to make 50-plus saves in back-to-back playoff games. Curtis Joseph had 61, then 57 for St. Louis at Toronto in 1993.
Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal played his 100th career postseason game.
CELEBRITIES ON HAND
Singer Carrie Underwood and her husband, former Predators captain, Mike Fisher, attended the game. Taylor Lewan, left tackle for the NFL's Tennessee Titans, chugged a beer and yanked off his jersey during a standing ovation in the second period.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker