Staal, Niederreiter lead Hurricanes past Predators in Game 1

Jordan Staal scored twice and Nino Niederreiter beat Juuse Saros for the go-ahead goal early in the third period, helping the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night in the first game of the teams' first-round playoff series.

Carolina captain scores twice, Niederreiter nets game-winner in 5-2 win

Carolina Hurricanes centre Jordan Staal, front right, celebrates after scoring against the Nashville Predators during the third period of Game 1 on Monday. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

The Carolina Hurricanes had a building full of rowdy fans again, players back from injury and a strong showing from their captain to help break open a close game.

The Central Division champions got the start they needed in the postseason.

Jordan Staal scored twice and Nino Niederreiter beat Juuse Saros for the go-ahead goal early in the third period, helping the Hurricanes to a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night to open their first-round playoff series.

The Hurricanes trailed 1-0 early against a team that added some size to the lineup and a physical edge, but began to establish their style of play more effectively in the second period and then took over the final 20 minutes.

By the end, Carolina had finished with a 38-24 edge in shots on goal and outhit the Predators in a game with plenty of chippy moments and chesty exchanges between the teams.

"I'm not concerned at how the game is going to be played, because we kind of have shown that all year," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Whatever style ends up playing, we've answered the bell, always. If it's an up-and-down game, OK, we can do that. If it ends up being a little grittier, that actually suits us, too."

Niederreiter hammered the puck past Saros from between the circles at 2:26 of the third, finishing a perfect pass from Martin Necas only moments after Saros had made a big stop on Vincent Trocheck. That broke a 2-all tie as the Hurricanes made their move.

Staal followed with his second goal midway through the second, created partly by his own pressure on the forecheck. After Saros stopped a shot near the post from Warren Foegele, the captain gathered the loose puck and pushed it past Saros for a 4-2 lead at the eight-minute mark.

Andrei Svechnikov added the clinching empty-netter on a breakaway at 18:13 for Carolina.

"Obviously that third period wasn't our strongest period," said Nashville forward Filip Forsberg, who had the game's first goal.

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Teuvo Teravainen scored a first-period goal for the Hurricanes, while Alex Nedeljkovic made 22 saves in his first playoff start.

Erik Haula also scored for the Predators, while Saros — who entered the postseason as one of the league's hottest players — finished with 33 saves.

The Hurricanes host Game 2 on Wednesday night before the best-of-seven series shifts west to Nashville in neighboring Tennessee.

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