Filip Forsberg and Erik Haula tallied for the Predators, but a pair of goals from Jordan Staal helped the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 win in Game 1 on Monday night at PNC Arena. The result gives Carolina a 1-0 series lead over Nashville to start the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Game 2 set for Wednesday.
The Preds were pleased with areas of their game on Monday, and they entered the third period tied 2-2 with the Canes, but Carolina scored twice in the first eight minutes of the final frame to pull away and hand Nashville a loss to begin the postseason.
Video: Haula, Forsberg analyze Preds' 5-2 loss in Game 1
"That third period wasn't our strongest period," Forsberg said. "We started off the game pretty good. Then in the second period, we sat back too much, took a couple penalties that got momentum off, and that's something that we obviously need to do a better job of not taking too many penalties. The [penalty] killers do a great job, but they're killing too much, so that's something that we need to improve on going forward. But the third, I feel we had a couple chances but didn't get that pushback that we wanted, especially after their first one."
Video: Coach Hynes laments third period in Preds' 5-2 loss
"We had some good moments, and I think there were times in the game we were able to get to our identity and play well," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. "That was a hard-fought game, but they were the better team, particularly in the third period and they found a way to win. We have to be a lot better in certain areas."
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm1: Forsberg goes five-hole to open scoring
Forsberg, Nashville's all-time leading scorer in the postseason, added to his totals at the 12:14 mark of the opening period, when he took a feed from Ryan Johansen and deked his way to the net to beat Carolina goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to give the Preds the first goal of the series. The Hurricanes evened the score fewer than two minutes later with a redirection from Teuvo Teravainen that beat Juuse Saros, and early in the second stanza, the home team took the lead for the first time.
Staal roofed a shot from a tight angle past Saros under five minutes into the middle frame, but the Preds answered back when the former Hurricane Haula snapped a shot from the slot for his first of the postseason and a 2-2 draw through 40 minutes.
Video: NSH@CAR, Gm1: Haula's wrister deflects into twine
That was as close as the Preds came to regaining the lead, however, and Carolina took over in the third with a goal from Nino Neidereiter, and then Staal added his second before Andrei Svechnikov converted with an empty net late in regulation.
"Honestly, I just think it's little things," Haula said. "In the third, we got away from breaking the puck out a little bit. They put the pressure on us, and we couldn't really get out with pace and they sustained some pressure, got some looks off that, and so that's one area I think we can get a little better at. But we'll look at the video tomorrow and make some adjustments and then get better and get ready to win Wednesday."
With the Predators the healthiest they've been since the start of the regular season, Hynes and his staff knew there would be some tough lineup decisions to make, and after Game 1, the head coach said those items would be evaluated leading into Wednesday night.
"We came in, and we had a lot of guys that have made cases for themselves to play, and obviously the group tonight didn't get it done," Hynes said. "We have some guys that are not in the lineup that we know are ready to play and can really contribute, so that's all part of the process. We came into Game 1, we did some good things with a 2-2 tie game going into the third period, but we didn't find a way to win it. So, now we'll just go right to the evaluation process on the game, on our lineup, evaluate the players tonight, and go from there."
Ultimately, Hynes added, no matter who was in the lineup for Game 1, the Predators simply didn't do enough to win, and they'll look to make adjustments with the intention of heading back home to Nashville with a tied series.
"Well, it's a long series," Haula said. "I don't sense any panic in our game. We're a confident group, we've gone through some adversity this season, so I'm very confident that we're going to bounce back and have a really good game on Wednesday."
Video: NSH Recap: Forsberg, Faula score in Game 1 defeat
Preds forward Viktor Arvidsson returned to the lineup for Game 1 after missing the previous five outings due to injury and skated with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.
Nashville scratched forwards Brad Richardson, Rem Pitlick, Nick Cousins, Rocco Grimaldi, Eeli Tolvanen and Michael McCarron, defensemen Tyler Lewington, Matt Benning, David Farrance, Jeremy Davies and Dante Fabbro, as well as goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo for Game 1.
Game 2 (at 7 p.m. CT) between the Predators and Hurricanes comes Wednesday night at PNC Arena before the series shifts back to Nashville and Bridgestone Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The start time of Game 4 has been announced as 1:30 p.m. CT. Television coverage will be on Bally Sports South and NBCSN. Radio coverage will be on 102.5 The Game.