With many in New York worried about a certain Game 7 against (AL) West champions later tonight, the New York Rangers’ slow start had many fans worrying about Game 9 against the defending Western Conference champions.
But in an afternoon showdown, the Rangers offered some relief to their scary start, if only temporarily.
Kevin Hayes scored for the second consecutive games, while Henrik Lundqvist pitched a third period shutout, and the Rangers earned a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden. The win snaps a five-game winless streak for the Blueshirts.
In a welcome departure from recent showings, the Rangers (2-5-2) got off to a hot start in the first period. Despite taking two penalties, both of which were killed off, the Rangers left the first 20 minutes with a 2-0 lead. After generating some solid opportunities early on via takeaways, Hayes’s rebound was put in by Jesper Fast, whose first goal of the season gave the Rangers the lead. When the Rangers wound up with a power play, awarded when Roman Josi high sticked Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider likewise scored his first goal of the season, putting the Rangers up 2-0 at the first break.
The Predators (4-3-1) cut the lead in half early with a Mattias Ekholm goal early in the second, but Hayes would once again take care of business, scoring his third goal of the season to regain the two-goal lead. Nashville drew close once more on Filip Forsberg’s sixth goal of the season, but from that point forward, it became Lundqvist’s show.
Despite being outshot 9-3 in the third period, the Rangers held on for the win, thanks to some spectacular saves from Lundqvist. Nashville pulled Juuse Saros with around two minutes to go, but Lundqvist still held strong, even during a penalty perhaps unrightfully earned when Scott Hartnell toss Brendan Smith into the Nashville net, slyly earning a power play. After some spectacular saves, the Rangers held on, and Jimmy Vesey sealed the deal with an empty net goal in the final minute.
It turned out to be a banner day for the Rangers’ penalty kill unit, which ranked 28th in the league entering the afternoon. They ended up killing all five Nashville extra-man opportunities.
Lundqvist even ended up making a bit of history in victory. With his 407th win, he now ties Glenn Hall for 9th on the all-time goalies wins list.
The Rangers will get a chance to extend their points streak, currently at three games, on Monday night, when they welcome in the San Jose Sharks to MSG (7:00, MSG)
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490