Predators take 2-0 lead to Denver

Predators take 2-0 lead to Denver

April 16th, 2018 by Associated Press in Sports - Professional

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35), of Finland, and defenseman Roman Josi (59), of Switzerland, celebrate after beating the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 5-4 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Photo by Mark Humphrey

DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon is counting on 18,000 of his rowdy friends to give the Colorado Avalanche a little bit of an extra buzz — and maybe even throw Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne off his game.

Trailing the top-seeded Predators 2-0 in the first-round series, the Avalanche are back in the building that has certainly been something to write home about this season. Their 28 wins at the Pepsi Center in the regular season tied the franchise mark held by the 2000-01 squad that went on to capture the Stanley Cup.

Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot (13) celebrates with Tyson Jost (17) and Mikko Rantanen (96), of Finland, after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the third period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot (13) celebrates with...

Photo by Mark Humphrey

"We have lots of confidence here," said MacKinnon, whose team has dropped 12 straight to the Predators. "The building has been a lot of fun this year."

Game 3 is at 10 p.m. EDT tonight, with NBC Sports Network televising the game.

MacKinnon said the Avalanche need to clean up the little things against the savvy Predators, who are trying to return to the Stanley Cup Final after falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games last season.

"We're in a tough spot right now," MacKinnon said. "Two games at home. Hopefully, we can even up the series."

The Predators fully expect a more tenacious rush from a youthful Colorado squad.

"They're persistent," Nashville forward Austin Watson said. "There's no quit in them."

While the Predators' Bridgestone Arena has become a difficult place for opponents, Colorado coach Jared Bednar thought his goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, played "OK" in the first two games, 5-2 and 5-4 wins for Nashville. But OK is not the standard for the postseason.

"If you look at the importance of goaltending this time of year," Bednar said, "good is usually not good enough."

Nashville is trying to sweep a first-round series for the second straight year. In the 2017 postseason, the Predators upset the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks to get momentum rolling on their deep run.

This year they entered the playoffs with a much higher profile as the Western Conference's top seed and the Presidents' Trophy winners for leading the NHL in regular-season victories.