Nino Niederreiter broke a third-period tie and Jordan Staal scored twice to pace the host Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in their Stanley Cup playoffs series opener Monday night in Raleigh, N.C.
Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov also scored for the Hurricanes, while goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 22 saves as Carolina controlled play for the final two periods. Brett Pesce collected a pair of assists.
Filip Forsberg and Erik Haula replied for the Predators. Goalie Juuse Saros stopped 33 shots.
The Hurricanes will also host Game 2 of the best-of-seven Central Division series on Wednesday.
With the score tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, Niederreiter netted the game-winning goal early in the third period. Seconds after teammate Vincent Trocheck was denied on a golden chance, Niederreiter was set up in the slot and buried a shot set up by Martin Necas just 2:26 into the third.
Staal’s second goal of the game exactly eight minutes into the final frame provided the insurance. During a scramble in the Nashville zone, Staal gained the puck in the slot and whipped a forehand through the maze of players for his 29th career playoff marker.
Carolina, which finished atop the division, also claimed six of eight regular season meetings.
The clubs traded goals in each of the first two periods.
Forsberg’s nifty goal opened the scoring. After keeping the play in the offensive zone, Forsberg gained the puck at the top of the right circle, zipped through a couple of defenders and then slipped a five-hole shot home at the 12:14 mark.
However, Teravainen’s deflection tally evened the count 87 seconds later. While checked, Teravainen used one hand to deflect a point shot home to put the hosts on the board.
Then, it was Nashville’s turn to erase a deficit. Staal netted his first of the game when he roofed a sharp-angled shot at 4:19 of the middle frame, but Haula — who spent most of last season with Carolina — tied the game when his effort ricocheted off a defender and over Nedeljkovic’s glove before the midway point.
Svechnikov’s empty net goal with 1:47 remaining in regulation rounded out the scoring.
–Field Level Media