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Recap: Staal leads Canes past Predators in game one

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Jordan Staal scored twice, and the Canes rode a strong third period to a game-one win Monday night.

Jordan Staal scores on Nashville during the second period in the first game of round one, Monday, May 17, 2021 in PNC Arena. The Canes won in regulation, 5-2.
Kaydee Gawlik

So far, so good for the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thanks to two goals from Jordan Staal, the Canes took home game one of their series with the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Monday night at PNC Arena.

The first observation from this one has to be the crowd. Capacity was increased to 12,000 fans, and that 12,000 sure made it sound and feel like a full house. From well before opening puck drop, the atmosphere in the building was absolutely electric, with the fans celebrating the return of playoff hockey to PNC Arena for the first time in over two years.

And the Hurricanes gave them plenty to celebrate on the ice, scoring twice in the first eight minutes of the third period after a back-and-forth opening two to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven.

In addition to Staal’s pair of tallies, Nino Niederreiter scored the game winner early in the third period, and Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen also scored. Brett Pesce chipped in two assists in his first playoff game since 2019.

Alex Nedeljkovic turned in a solid outing in his first career playoff game, looking composed throughout with nothing to fault him for on either Predators goal. Nedeljkovic turned aside 22 of 24 Predators shots.

In back and forth first period that saw both teams with a few chances, Nashville struck first about 12 minutes in, as Filip Forsberg weaved his way through the Canes’ defenders and beat Nedeljkovic five hole to make it 1-0.

The Canes wasted no time tying it up, however, as just over a minute later, Brett Pesce let go a shot from the point that Teravainen deflected past Saros, making it a 1-1 game and igniting the crowd. Steven Lorentz grabbed the secondary assist on the goal, picking up his first career playoff point in his first career playoff game.

The Canes flew out of the gate in the second period, starting with an excellent shift for the reunited top trio of Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov.

They cashed in with the game at 4 on 4 about five minutes into the playoffs, as Staal bulldozed his way through two defenders and roofed a gorgeous top-shelf shot from a seemingly impossible angle to put the Canes up 2-1 for their first lead of the playoffs.

Nashville tied the game up with about 11 minutes left in the middle frame, as, following a failed clearing attempt by Jake Bean, former Hurricanes forward Erik Haula snapped a shot from the slot that deflected off Jani Hakanpaa and past Nedeljkovic to make it 2-2.

The Canes wasted little time taking the lead in the third period on a wild sequence. After Saros exploded across to rob Vincent Trocheck off a slick feed from Martin Necas, Necas settled the puck behind the net and fed it to Niederreiter between the circles. Niederreiter one-timed it home to give the Canes a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.

Carolina continued its excellent start to the third with chance after chance, and it was again Staal who capitalized, gathering a loose puck and sweeping it past Saros for his second of the game to put the Canes up 4-2.

The Predators pulled Saros with over two minutes remaining to make a late push, but Svechnikov sealed the deal with an empty netter with 1:47 left.

These two teams will be back at it as the Canes go for a 2-0 series lead in game two Wednesday night at PNC Arena.