DENVER — Nathan MacKinnon is counting on 18,000 of his rowdy friends to give the Colorado Avalanche a little bit of an extra buzz.
Maybe even throw Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne off his game.
Trailing the top-seeded Predators 2-0 in the first-round series, the Avalanche return Monday (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) to a building that’s 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.
“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.”
Colorado isn’t the only team hoping a change of scenery provides a change in momentum — Toronto returns to friendly confines down 2-0 in the series against Boston (7 p.m., NBCSN). The New Jersey Devils are in the same boat versus Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m., CNBC) heading into their first playoff home game since 2012.
Then there’s the San Jose Sharks, who are sitting pretty after two road wins against Anaheim (10:30 p.m., CNBC). Now at home, the Sharks get last change and the opportunity to dictate matchups.
“It’s a nice luxury being at home, having those matchups,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “The bigger advantage is the crowd and the environment and being able to sleep in your own bed.”
For New Jersey, climbing back in the series boils down to this — avoiding big early deficits. They trailed the Lightning 3-0 in Game 1 and 5-1 in Game 2 before staging a comeback.
“We need to play as a group,” said coach John Hynes, who plans to make some lineup changes. “We can’t have passengers.”
MacKinnon said the Avs need to clean up the little things against a savvy Predators team.
“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.”
Boston hopes David Pastrnak packs his Game 2 performance for the trip to Toronto. The 21-year-old had three goals and three assists to become the youngest NHL player with six or more points in a playoff game, surpassing Wayne Gretzky, according to the Bruins website.
“When you’re breaking a Wayne Gretzky record, I hope he realizes at his young age how cool it is,” forward David Backes told reporters. “Hopefully he had fun last night and enjoyed that moment because it is special.”
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
The Ducks can latch on to some recent history for optimism in coming back from an 0-2 deficit. They lost the first two games at home in the second round last year to Edmonton before rallying to win the series in seven games.
“That’s the situation we’re in. We have a good team,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. “We have a team that’s been in these situations before.”
This definitely takes the cake: At the start of the playoffs, IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden, a Nashville fan, proposed a wager to fellow racer, James Hinchcliffe, a Toronto Maple Leafs supporter. The driver with the team that bowed out of the Stanley Cup playoffs first had to bake the other a homemade cake and present it at an autograph session while wearing the opposing team’s sweater.
“Challenge accepted,” Hinchcliffe responded. “They (Maple Leafs) are going to win it all. Nobody goes further than the team holding the Cup.”
Hinchcliffe added: “Personally, I’m a red velvet guy.”
Newgarden said he prefers vanilla.
SAVING THE DAY
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar thought goaltender Jonathan Bernier played “OK” in the first two games.
“If you look at the importance of goaltending this time of year, good is usually not good enough,” Bednar said.
Goaltending is on the minds of the Devils, too. Keith Kinkaid played well down the stretch, but has struggled in the postseason. He was lifted in the second period Sunday after giving up five goals on 15 shots.
Cory Schneider, who was the starter most of the season until a hip and groin injury in January sidelined him for a month, finished and did not allow a goal on 10 shots.
“There is still a lot of hockey to be played,” Devils forward Taylor Hall said, “and a lot of hockey on home ice as well.”
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker, Josh Dubow Tom Canavan and Fred Goodall contributed to this report.
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