Level-headed Hurricanes look for 2-0 lead on Predators

NHL Hockey

The Carolina Hurricanes understand the postseason will be about adjusting and adapting to whatever situations arise.

Leading 1-0, they will look to do more of that in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series with the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night in Raleigh, N.C.

“Whatever the style ends up being played, we’ve answered the bell, always,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

Carolina produced the only third-period scoring with three goals to pull out Monday night’s series opener 5-2.

It was the first game in a week for both teams. Nashville concluded the regular season by winning twice against the Hurricanes, the Central Division regular-season champions.

With the postseason pressure on, Carolina seemed ready for the challenge.

“We stuck with what we had to do,” Brind’Amour said.

The Predators, meanwhile, know they need to respond better when things go awry.

“It’s playoff hockey. You’ve got to play 60 minutes,” Nashville winger Erik Haula said. “I just think it’s little things. … We’ll make adjustments and get better and get ready to win on Wednesday.”

Predators coach John Hynes hinted at some changes to the lineup, though being tied at 2-2 going to the third period means there were good parts for the team.

“We have some guys who are not in the lineup who we know are ready to play and can really contribute,” he said.

Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal scored two goals to highlight the first game of the series.

“Whatever the situation, you can count on him,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s why he’s our leader.”

Staal said the Hurricanes, who won the first six regular-season meetings with Nashville, were able to meet the challenge because they knew they’d have to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

“We kept at our game,” Staal said. “It ended up paying off for us.”

Staal said Carolina has to be ready for the elevated physical play that comes in the postseason. He said a good tone for that was established in Game 1.

The Hurricanes were embraced by increased attendance of about 12,000 — more than double the permitted capacity during the regular season amid the pandemic.

“That’s how it should feel,” Brind’Amour said. “We’ve been missing that for so long.”

Even in a more hostile environment than they’ve been in this season, the Predators had encouraging moments. Haula, a former Carolina player, said having more fans in arenas is going to be a plus overall.

Nashville didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the second-to-last game of the regular season, so maintaining a good vibe shouldn’t be an issue.

“I don’t sense any panic in our game,” Haula said. “We’re a confident group. We’ve got through some adversity this season so I’m very confident that we’re going to bounce back.”

The Hurricanes used rookie Alex Nedeljkovic as the goalie in his postseason debut. He’s just the second rookie in franchise history to win in his first playoff game.

“He has earned the right to start,” Brind’Amour said.

Carolina’s lineup was enhanced by the return of winger Brock McGinn, who was the hero in the 2019 first-round upset of Washington. McGinn had been out at the end of the regular season with an upper-body injury.

“That was the key, everybody contributed,” Brind’Amour said.

–Field Level Media

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