Staal, Niederreiter lead Hurricanes past Predators in Game 1
Carolina captain scores twice, Niederreiter nets game-winner in 5-2 win
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.
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."
First playoff Surge in team history! <a href="https://t.co/ccvXLySh8n">pic.twitter.com/ccvXLySh8n</a>—@Canes
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.
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.
WATCH | Stanley Cup playoff preview: Central division
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.
WATCH | What to expect during 2021 NHL playoffs: