A Difference in Star Power Evident in Carolina’s Preseason Loss to Nashville

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 27: Ryan Suzuki #61 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on during the third period of their game against the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena on September 27, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 27: Ryan Suzuki #61 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on during the third period of their game against the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena on September 27, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /
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If you missed the Hurricanes’ final road game of the preseason, you didn’t miss anything. With their 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, the Canes have dropped three straight preseason games, but there is a giant asterisk next to it.

For this game, the Predators iced a large portion of their Opening Night roster, including Juuse Saros in the net. Conversely, the Hurricanes sent their roster of mostly PTO players and rookies that have seen a lot of action this preseason, with Antti Raanta getting the start.

To the Canes’ credit, they played a very strong first five minutes. They were forcing turnovers at their offensive blue line and getting great chances on Juuse Saros. It ultimately led to the Canes scoring the opening goal. The trio of Jamieson Rees, Felix Unger Sorum, and Ryan Suzuki combined for a beautiful passing play, with Suzuki getting the tap-in on the doorstep.

Unfortunately, the fun times ended there for the Canes’ offense. Thirty-eight seconds after the opening goal, Ryan O’Reilly redirected a shot past Antti Raanta, earning his first of four points in the game. Then, Filip Fosberg snapped a shot from the right dot on the power play, giving Nashville two goals on their first three shots. To close the period, Kiefer Sherwood worked around the Canes’ defense and lifted a shot past Raanta with over a minute left. Despite a 22-12 edge in shots, the Canes found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 game.

Nashville’s fun carried into the second period. While they didn’t score again until late in the period, the Predators controlled play. Eventually, they broke the Canes’ defense. Gustav Nyquist picked up a rebound to extend the lead to 4-1, and Samuel Fagemo redirected a pass into the net to make it 5-1 with seconds left in the period.

The bleeding was stopped in the third period by the Hurricanes. Pyotr Kochetkov took over in the net for the third, and he looked phenomenal. He was all over the place, playing with energy and making a ton of stops in the final 20 minutes. Kochetkov stopped all 13 shots he faced, including a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. He wouldn’t get any goal support as the Canes took a 5-1 loss in the first half of a home-and-home with the Predators.

The only other big storyline coming out of this game surrounded Ryan Suzuki. While he did score the Canes’ lone goal, Suzuki left the game early in the second period after catching an elbow from Alexandre Carrier. This immediately sent him to the locker room, knocking him out of the game with an upper-body injury. He’s been one of the standouts of training camp and the rookie showcase through his in-game performances and likely is threatening for a roster spot, so a potentially serious injury would be heart-breaking, especially with his injury history.

The preseason for the Hurricanes concludes on Friday night at PNC Arena with a rematch against the Predators. The Canes will likely send their full complement of starters out for their preseason finale, much like Nashville did for this one, giving us our first taste of the Opening Night roster. The team will submit their final roster on Monday before kicking the season into gear on October 11 against the Ottawa Senators.