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Aho, Nedeljkovic lift Hurricanes past Predators, 3-0

Sebastian Aho scored twice and Alex Nedeljkovic was sharp in net to lead a perfect showing for Carolina's penalty kill, helping the Hurricanes beat the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Monday night in Game 2 of the first-round playoff series.

That lifted Carolina to a 2-0 lead as the best-of-seven series shifts to Nashville for Game 3 on Friday night.

Nedeljkovic finished with 32 saves for the shutout in his second playoff start. And he was under plenty of pressure considering the Hurricanes were called for nine penalties.

Carolina Hurricanes right wing Andrei Svechnikov (37) and Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene chase the puck during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoGerry Broome)

And yet, the Hurricanes — who had killed 22 of 23 penalties over the last nine games — turned away all seven power plays for the Predators despite playing without top-line defenseman Jaccob Slavin.

That helped Carolina cling to a 1-0 lead on Aho's first-period goal, then Aho finally gave the Hurricanes some breathing room when he ran down a loose puck and scored an empty-netter at 19:07 of the third to make it 2-0.

Warren Foegele added a third goal in the final seconds, a rare success for Carolina against Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros.

Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) and Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) skate for the puck during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoGerry Broome)

Saros finished with 28 saves for Nashville, which is 0 for 10 on the power play in the series.

The Hurricanes won Game 1 on Monday, scoring three times in the final 20 minutes to break open a 2-2 game. That game included the first for the Hurricanes since the easing of public-gathering restrictions in the state, clearing the way for 12,000 fans to attend and create a rowdy and loud home-ice edge.

This time, that crowd was treated to a physical, feisty and penalty-filled contest in which neither team missed many chances to shove or tug on an opponent's jersey after the whistle.

Nashville Predators defenseman Matt Benning (5) and Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jordan Martinook (48) fight during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoGerry Broome)

SLAVIN’S STATUS

Slavin, a top-line defenseman for Carolina, has a lower-body injury that coach Rod Brind’Amour has said will essentially make him a game-time decision for the foreseeable future.

He played 21:25 of ice time on Monday but couldn’t go on Wednesday. That meant major minutes for defensemen Brett Pesce (28:01) and Brady Skjei (27:44) to grind through this one.

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) checks Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoGerry Broome)

LINEUP TWEAKS

Nashville split up defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis from the top pairing, with Josi lined up with Alexandre Carrier and Ellis paired with Mattias Ekholm. Nashville also had winger Eeli Tolvanen back in the lineup after he sat in Game 1.

The Predators were without forward Calle Jarnkrok due to a non-COVID illness. Jarnkrok, who played 12:53 in Monday’s opener, is considered day-to-day.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) falls to the ice while Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) and center Colton Sissons (10) defend during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoGerry Broome)

STORM WARNING

Rapper Petey Pablo sounded the pregame storm-warning siren. The North Carolina native is best known for his “Raise Up” song, prominently referencing his home state, that plays after Hurricanes goals during home games.

Duke men’s basketball assistant coach Nolan Smith and PGA Tour professional Doc Redman, a Raleigh native, sounded the siren during the intermissions.

Carolina Hurricanes left wing Brock McGinn (23) falls to the ice while chasing the puck with Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP PhotoGerry Broome)

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