Carolina Hurricanes sweep season series, beating Preds 5-3

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes knew they had to shake off an ugly performance to keep pace in the playoff chase, and the schedule gave them a quick chance to do just that.

The Hurricanes didn’t waste the opportunity.

Nino Niederreiter scored twice in the first period and the Hurricanes held off the Nashville Predators 5-3 on Saturday night to sweep the season series.

Sebastian Aho had a goal and an assist and Justin Williams and Jordan Martinook also scored. The Hurricanes snapped a two-game skid that included an 8-1 loss to Winnipeg on Friday night and jumped a spot to third in the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference pushing Pittsburgh down to the first wild card.

“We knew what kind of a stage that we’re in right now,” Niederreiter said. “We’re all fighting for a playoff spot. I think we’re in a good position, so we made sure we can’t lose like that like last night 8-1. We had to make sure we bounce back and that’s what we did.”

Teuvo Teravainen had two assists, and goalie Petr Mrazek improved to 8-0-0 against Nashville after making 31 saves.

“It’s been the story of the year,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We’re a battling team. We’re working hard, but we’re making mistakes just like everyone else. We need big saves at key times, and that’s what we’ve been getting.”

Mikael Granlund, Brian Boyle and Craig Smith scored for the Predators.

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette pulled goalie Juuse Saros with about 2:33 left, and Granlund scored with 2:28 left right in front with officials waving it off both on the ice and after an initial review for interference by Boyle who collided with Mrazek. The Predators challenged and won for Granlund’s first goal since being acquired at the trade deadline.

Aho sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 19.3 seconds left.

The Predators played without Filip Forsberg, day to day with a lower-body injury. Granlund replaced Forsberg on the top line with Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen. Nashville also was coming off its first three-day break since the team’s mandated break immediately after the All-Star Game in late January.

Carolina also had to travel after losing to Winnipeg. That didn’t stop the Hurricanes from jumping on the Predators early, outshooting them 16-8 and grabbing a 2-0 lead after the first period.

“We played it right from the onset, and we atoned from a dismal performance last night,” Williams said.

The Predators got into penalty trouble early and often starting with Smith just 30 seconds into the game. Then they wound up giving the Hurricanes a 5-on-3 for 95 seconds with back-to-back tripping penalties on Matt Irwin and captain Roman Josi. Saros, starting for Pekka Rinne, made seven saves during the penalty kill to keep it scoreless.

Niederreiter put Carolina up 1-0 at 14:29 with a wrister from the left circle that went top shelf over Saros’ glove. Nashville took its fourth penalty for too many men on the ice during a power play, and Niederreiter made it 2-0 with a second left tipping in Teravainen’s shot from the slot on the man advantage for his 11th goal in 22 games with the Hurricanes.

Nashville finished with five penalties and gave up two power plays. Laviolette said the too many men penalty while on the power play should not happen.

“We know our changes, and we need to execute it,” Laviolette said. “That’s an opportunity for us to get into the game and it slipped away.

Smith got Nashville on the board at 2:52 of the second, beating Mrazek’s blocker with a slap shot from the top of the right circle.

Williams scored Carolina’s second power-play goal 55 seconds into the third. Boyle answered quickly scoring at 2:35 to pull Nashville within 3-2. Then Martinook beat Saros with a wrister at 6:38 to pad the lead for Carolina.

NOTES: The Hurricanes improved to 10-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs. … Williams notched his seventh straight 20-goal season. … Nashville dropped to 5-17-4 when trailing after the second period.

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: At Colorado on Monday night.

Predators: At Anaheim on Tuesday night.