ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – After Nashville and Edmonton took their second-round series openers in remarkably similar fashion, St. Louis and Anaheim are under pressure to respond in Game 2.
Two road teams blew a couple of two-goals leads in the third period, but then got a couple of fortunate bounces and scored a couple of opportunistic goals in the Western Conference semifinals. Both series are back at it on Friday night with the stakes raised for the home teams, which face the prospect of a quick series hole.
Predators at Blues, Nashville leads 1-0 (7 p.m. on Y98 98.1 FM)
Nashville is unbeaten in the postseason, while St. Louis is still looking for a rhythm. The first two periods of Game 1 looked much like the Blues’ entire first-round series against Minnesota, with St. Louis getting massively outshot and goals coming sparingly.
The Blues’ top scorers have largely been silent so far in the playoffs: Vladimir Tarasenko has just one playoff goal after scoring 39 in the regular season. But Blues coach Mike Yeo isn’t concerned.
“Again, he’s getting chances,” Yeo said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t want him scoring goals. We’ve got to find a way, and that’s on us. But there’s not much concern. … My concern would be if his head wasn’t in the right place, and I’ve got no concerns about that.”
It’s not just Tarasenko. Second-line mainstays Patrik Berglund and David Perron are still searching for their first postseason goals, and Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen are the only two forwards with multiple playoff goals.
Face-off struggles may have something to do with that. Nashville won 38 of 61 faceoffs (62 percent) in Game 1, including a massive 16-1 advantage in the second period.
“We have to be better at that,” Yeo said. “Certainly they went in there and they dominated that area. I thought they dominated a lot of the 1-on-1 battles in the game, too, so they were better than us in all the small areas of the game and that’s why they won.”
Oilers at Ducks, Edmonton leads 1-0 (10:30 p.m., NBCSN)
“This one is big for us on Friday,” Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. “We know what we have to do, though. The first one wasn’t a bad effort by our group, but there are things we’ve got to clean up.”
Vernon Fiddler got the biggest goal for the Predators, who have a lead in a second-round series for the first time in franchise history after holding off the Blues.
Adam Larsson was the unlikely offensive hero for the Oilers, getting two goals in 7 1/2 minutes in the third period after scoring only four goals in his first 85 games this season. The Swedish defenseman got the go-ahead score on an unlikely deflection .
“There’s not usually going to be a smooth ride through 16 games to get there,” said Ducks center Antoine Vermette, who won a ring with Chicago two years ago. “You have to go back and forth. You have to face a lot of challenges. We know that in here.”
Here are some things to watch for Friday (all times Eastern):
The Ducks came unglued defensively in the third period of Game 1, yielding four goals. That was a stark contrast with their first-round sweep of Calgary, when the Flames didn’t score a third-period goal in the entire series.
“I think we’re giving teams way too many looks in games,” said Jakob Silfverberg, who scored in the opener. “We’re playing some teams that really know how to move the puck and shoot the puck, but we have to limit their opportunities to take good shots or make plays.”
Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa is doubtful for Game 2 after incurring a lower-body injury in the series opener, but help could be on the way. Sami Vatanen participated in Thursday’s skate and pronounced himself “really close” to returning from the upper-body injury that has kept him out for four games.
“I want to know that I can help the team to win the games before I come back,” Vatanen said.
NHL scoring champion Connor McDavid was limited to one secondary assist in the opener, but the Oilers got four points from German star Leon Draisaitl and another big chunk of help from lesser-known talents. Larsson is the latest unlikely scorer of a game-winning goal for Edmonton, which also got winners from Zack Kassian, David Desharnais and Anton Slepyshev in the first round.
“The guys have always believed in our depth,” McDavid said. “They may not score all the time, but they’re always working hard and getting chances.”
Follow Hockey Writer Greg Beacham.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)