The Blueshirts ended a two game skid Saturday night with a well-deserved 4-3 victory. As Predators-Rangers matchups in Nashville have been throughout the past couple of years, the action was physical fast, and entertaining as heck. There was a scrum after almost every whistle early, there were a total of 35 hits of which everyone got involved in, and the Nashville crowd was electric as always. To add onto the excitement, you has two 36 year old heavyweights between the pipes in Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne. Rinne is the fourth winningest European goaltender and captured the Vezina Trophy last year In regards to the New York play in the matchup, the Rangers were led by the reunited line of Kreider-Zibanejad-Fast. Fast, who was coming back from a two week absence due to an upper body injury, posted two goals and an assist. In addition, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad both had incredible games. Kreider posted a goal and two assists as Mika record a career high four assists. Together, the linemates combined for ten points. Another force returned tonight for the Rangers, Cody Mcleod. Mcleod had an impact early and often as he rumbled along for four hits and sent two Predator’s off the ice limping. Not to mention, the Predators are his former team. The Rangers showed lack of discipline by committing five penalties, but of course Lundqvist was sensational making 34 saves on 37 shots. This is a huge victory for the Blueshirts as they get their road trip off on a good foot. And hey, how about a regulation win—a rarity for the boys in blue.
The Rangers came out swinging early in the opening frame, with and without the puck. Not only were bodies being sent all over the ice, but pucks were flying towards Pekka Rinne. The Nashville netminder was forced to face an early penalty kill as Predators coach Peter Laviolette was given a bench minor for barking at the referee just a but too much. New York took advantage on the powerplay by virtue of Chris Kreider’s 20th goal of the year. He deflected a Mika Zibanejad slap pass straight to the roof on the far side. The goal was scored just under the three minute mark. Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, their attack would be stalled right there and their play became sloppy and unstable. The Predator took control of the period and at 8:43 of the period, forward Nick Bonino potted home a powerplay goal to tie the game at one. Nashville would end up receiving an additional two power plays in the period, but Lundqvist managed to stop 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the twenty minutes of action.
The second period was actually quite evenly played, but the pace proved to be too fast for the younger Blueshirts team and the majority of play was in favor of Nashville. The first goal, although, was scored by Rangers’ Jesper Fast. Mika Zibanejad fed the puck to Fast right in cront of the net to Fast who made no mistake by blasting the puck right through Rinne. Less than a minute lasted, at the 4:44 mark, Predators’ Kevin Fiala evened the game at two wired the puck five hole past Lundqvist on a 2 on one odd man rush. Fiala would finish with three points on the night. Just past the halfway point of the period, Nick Bonino scored his second power play goal of the game with a wide open backhand shot. The veteran’s goal fired up the crowd as the Preds, who were on a five game losing streak, took their first lead of the game. The shots on goal would end up being 11-10 in favor of the Predators.
As we have seen in recent games, the third period has been a success for the Rangers in the early part, but then a collapse late. On Saturday, though, that would change. The Rangers started the scoring only 4:53 in as Marc Staal lit the lamp for the third time this season. He managed to take a nice saucer past from Fast and in the high slot he snapped the puck past Rinne. About three minutes later, the Blueshirts capitalized again. Jesper Fast scored his second of the night off a lovely one timer right in front of the net. After the early goals, Nashville slowly but surely started to take over play. Luckily, Lundqvist did what he does best by keeping the Rangers in the game. Seemingly a miracle at this point for the Blueshirts, they did not allow a goal with the Predators goalie pulled and hung on for the 4-3 regulation win.
This was a key victory for the Blueshirts as they snapped a three game skid and played a winning game for all three periods. They will look to advance on this win Monday night in St Louis.