RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jordan Staal scored two goals for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round at PNC Arena on Monday.
"He was great," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "It's just what he does, plays hard every night, every shift. Whatever the situation, you can count on him. That's why he's our leader."
Nino Niederreiter put Carolina ahead 3-2 at 2:26 of the third period. After Juuse Saros made a sprawling save on Hurricanes forward Vincent Trocheck in the slot, Martin Necas gathered a loose puck behind the net and passed to Niederreiter for a one-timer in the slot.
Staal made it 4-2 at 8:00 with his second of the game, and Andrei Svechnikov scored into an empty net with 1:47 remaining for the 5-2 final.
Rookie Alex Nedeljkovic made 22 saves in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, and Brett Pesce had two assists for the Hurricanes, who are the No. 1 seed in the Discover Central Division.
"I thought for the most part it was just another game, obviously just a little bit louder," Nedeljkovic said. "You just try to look at it that way; it's just another game, and we've got three more (wins) to go."
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm1: Staal roofs a wrist shot past Saros
Filip Forsberg and Erik Haula scored for the Predators, the No. 4 seed. Saros made 33 saves.
"We did some good things," Nashville coach John Hynes said. "It was a 2-2 tie going into the third period, we didn't find a way to win it. Now we will go to the evaluation process on the game and on our lineup."
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series will be played here Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, FX-CA, TVAS, BSSO).
Forsberg cut to the net through the left face-off circle and scored off a pass by Ryan Johansen from the end boards to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 12:14 of the first period.
"I think we have a recipe for how to play well against them," Forsberg said. "I think we were showing it at times. I don't think we played our best game. They deserved to win. They played better than us tonight."
Teuvo Teravainen tied it 1-1 at 13:41 with a one-handed redirection of Pesce's one-timer from the point.
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm1: Teravainen deflects home Pesce's shot
Staal scored at 4:19 of the second period to give Carolina a 2-1 lead. After Staal won a face-off to Pesce, the Hurricanes captain took a return pass and split Predators defensemen Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi before scoring top shelf near the goal line.
"I pretty much lost the puck a little bit going between those two guys," Staal said. "When it goes well is usually when you're not really thinking. I was just kind of finding a way to get to the net. It was a good goal."
Haula tied it 2-2 at 8:41 when he took a pass from Matt Duchene and scored when his shot went in off the back of the sweater of defenseman Jani Hakanpaa at the right hash marks.
Nashville defenseman Alexandre Carrier and forwards Tanner Jeannot, Yakov Trenin and Mathieu Olivier each made his NHL playoff debut.
"We have a lot of guys who have made cases for themselves to play, and obviously the group tonight didn't get it done," Hynes said. "We have some guys who are not in the lineup that we know are ready to play and can really contribute, so that's all part of the process."
Teams that win Game 1 are 490-222 (68.8 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 7-1 in the first round last season.
NOTES: Defenseman Jaccob Slavin was plus-1 with four hits in 21:25 after missing Carolina's final regular-season game, a 5-0 loss at Nashville on May 10, with a lower-body injury. ... Nedeljkovic is the first rookie goalie to win a playoff game for the Hurricanes since Cam Ward in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers. ... Forward Steven Lorentz had an assist on Teravainen's goal in his NHL playoff debut. … The Hurricanes outhit the Predators 56-49. … Josi was minus-3 with one shot on goal in 24:04. … Haula played 41 games for Carolina last season, scoring 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists), before being traded to the Florida Panthers on Feb. 24 with three other players for Trocheck.
Video: Staal propels Hurricanes over Predators in Game 1