It wasn’t long after celebrating Craig Smith’s overtime goal that P.K. Subban zeroed in on the cold reality of Nashville’s playoff series against Dallas.
“There are no easy shifts out there, no easy games and no easy plays,” he said. “It’s hand-to-hand combat out there.”
Subban and the Central Division-winning Predators needed to work overtime just to even things with the Stars at a game apiece, and the Colorado Avalanche got a sudden-death goal from Nathan MacKinnon to tie up their series against the Western Conference top-seeded Calgary Flames. In the East, the defending Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals needed extra time to take a two games to none lead on the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Boston Bruins are going blow-for-blow with the Toronto Maple Leafs in series that’s all square and looking like it could be a classic.
None of these first-round series are going to be easy — even for the Capitals, who will go into a madhouse Monday for the first Hurricanes home playoff game in a decade.
“Absolutely no quit in that team,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said Sunday of Carolina. “They’re not going away.”
The Capitals will try to keep up the physicality against the small and quick Hurricanes, who have shown they can come back on Washington. Centre Jordan Staal said, “We’re right there,” and there’s no shortage of belief that they can make it a series.
“I don’t think we played our best game,” centre Sebastian Aho said. “It’s just trying to believe that when we play our best, we have a better chance to win.”
Stars-Predators is anyone’s series going into Game 3 on Monday night in Dallas. Each of the first two games was decided by a goal, and players expect the low-scoring trend to continue as the series wears on.
“It’s not obviously open like the regular season,” Stars goaltender Ben Bishop said. “Everybody finishes checks, everybody’s going 110 per cent. It’s not going to be that up-and-down style that you’re used to.”
The Capitals know from their own experience in the first round last year that a 2-0 series lead doesn’t mean a whole lot. They came back from down 2-0 to beat Columbus on the way to winning the Cup and were pushed to seven games by Tampa Bay after leading the Eastern Conference final by that same margin.
They know better by now than to underestimate the Hurricanes.
“There’s a lot of desperation whether you’re down two or you’re starting the series, but there might be a little extra,” Washington winger T.J. Oshie said. “feels good to be up 2-nothing, but I think we can still do a lot better job and we’re going to have to if we want to go get a win there.”