NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Winning the Stanley Cup requires 16 victories each postseason, and the Nashville Predators started better than any team in these playoffs by winning their first five.
Now the St. Louis Blues are ready to test how the Predators respond to their first loss.
”We knew this was going to be a long series,” Blues goaltender Jake Allen said after a 3-2 win on Friday night tied their Western Conference semifinal at 1-1. ”I don’t think either team thought it was going to be a sweep from one side or the other. … I guess we’re still in for a long series and have to get rested and go into a tough building.”
The Predators went 24-9-8 at home during the regular season at Bridgestone Arena where they have sold out every game, including both home games this postseason when they finished off a sweep of Chicago in the first round. They also have won six straight playoff games going back to the first round last spring.
”We just need to respond well here,” Nashville captain Mike Fisher said. ”We’re at home, which is a good thing, and we’re looking forward to that game.”
The Western Conference features quick turnarounds for both semifinals with only a one-day break before Game 3 on Sunday. St. Louis enjoyed a short flight to Nashville with a tied series, while Anaheim faces a much longer trip to Edmonton after dropping the first two games on home ice for the third time in four years.
The last time the Ducks lost their first two at home, the Predators knocked them out of the first round a year ago in seven games. Ducks defenseman Josh Manson said this will test their character.
”Now it’s even more important to go in there and steal one, at least,” Manson said. ”It’s going to be a tough test, but we’re up for it. We know we’ll have to bring our best here.”
That won’t be easy. The Oilers have won each of the four playoff series they started by winning the first two on the road.
Some things to watch Sunday:
Blues at Predators, Series tied 1-1 (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
The Predators are looking forward not only to being back home, but the chance to play their first game in this series with a full complement of 12 forwards for an entire game. They lost Kevin Fiala to a broken left leg early in winning Game 1, then veteran Vernon Fiddler was ejected in the second period of Game 2 for knee-on-knee contact with Colton Parayko.
That has forced Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to mix and match lines, double-shifting some players. Then the Predators wound up with 23 minutes on penalties and didn’t get one power play opportunity. That was exactly what Blues coach Mike Yeo wanted to see, keeping a power-play unit that has been the NHL’s best this postseason off the ice.
Now Laviolette is hoping to use all four of his lines.
”Just trying to find that rhythm on the bench is going to be important,” Laviolette said.
Ducks at Oilers, Edmonton leads 2-0 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Edmonton goalie Cam Talbott made 39 saves in a 2-1 victory , his fourth straight in helping the Oilers grab their first 2-0 lead on the road since 2006 in the Western finals, also against Anaheim.
Elias Sports Bureau says teams starting 2-0 on the road are 69-18 (79.3 percent) all-time in playoff series and those going up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series are 309-48 (86.6 percent) all-time.
”We’re in a good spot right now, and those are the type of wins that you need sometimes from your goaltender,” Oilers forward Milan Lucic said.
The Ducks now have lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since the first two games of this season. They also have never rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a series.