After a slew of trades Sunday night for the New York Rangers, they went back to work tonight against the league-leading Nashville Predators. Keith Yandle, playing in his first game as a New York Ranger, played very well, and appeared to have some early chemistry with Kevin Klein. Yandle's vision in the offensive zone is something the Rangers haven't possessed in ages, and every time he touched the puck, he made something happen.
Not to mention, he slots onto a blue line where he doesn't necessarily need to be "the guy" anymore. Ryan McDonagh, and Marc Staal make the transition fairly easy for Yandle, as they eat a majority of the tough minutes on the left side. So far so good for Yandle.
Cam Talbot and Mats Zuccarello were also incredibly impressive tonight, and played massive roles in the Rangers victory tonight. Fresh off signing his new four year deal, Zuccarello came out with one of his better games, and contributed two assists on the night. As for Talbot, he look really, really good tonight and seemed to be tracking pucks fairly well all night long.
The Rangers put together quite the performance throughout the first period, and essentially dominated the league-leading Predators. Despite some early pressure off of the opening face-off by the Predators, the Rangers responded appropriately, and took it to the Predators for the remainder of the period. With the amount of offensive zone time the Rangers were getting, they quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 6:36 into regulation.
Derick Brassard started the entire play with a crisp cross-ice feed that was initially intended for Mats Zuccarello, but he was unable to handle the puck. Marc Staal was following closely behind, picked up the loose puck, and snapped a hard wrist shot over Pekka Rinne's glove. The goal was huge in terms of gaining the early momentum, and the Rangers rode it all throughout the first period.
However, at the 12:52 mark, the Rangers were put to the test as Mats Zuccarello was whistled down for high stick, and sent Nashville to their first power play. Just like they had been doing from the start, the Rangers gave Nashville zero room to work with, and didn't give up a single shot while killing the penalty. One of the biggest reason's the Predators had so much trouble was the fact that the Rangers weren't allowing them to set up with an organized breakout.
That, in turn, lead to a ton of pucks being coughed up below the goal line, and the Rangers winning every single one of the puck battles. After an absolutely dominating performance in the first period, the Rangers carried that over early on in the second period. Once again, they were rewarded with a quick goal courtesy of Chris Kreider, and gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead at the 4:14 mark.
Derick Brassard did a lot of the heavy lifting in the corner, and the puck eventually popped out to Mats Zuccarello along the boards. On the other end of the ice, Chris Kreider slipped off the bench undetected, and Zuccarello hit him with a picture perfect pass for the easy tap in. With the ink freshly drying on Zuccarello's brand new four year deal, he continued to prove that is worth every single penny.
Just as this game appeared to be slipping away from the Predators, they showed everyone why they are the top team in the league. Nearing the end of the period, Jesper Fast coughed up the puck at the blue line, and gave the Predators a 2-on-1 advantage down low. Yandle was the only one caught back, and wasn't able to make a play on a spectacular pass from Taylor Beck. Beck somehow managed to corral the puck while on his knees, and shoveled a pass over to Matt Cullen who was wide open in front.
Neither Yandle nor Talbot really stood much of a chance on the goal, and the Predators pulled back within a goal late in the second period. Heading into the third period, the Rangers needed to rebound after an iffy final ten minutes during the second period. Sure enough, just like the prior two periods, the Rangers cashed in within the first five minutes of the final frame.
Jesper Fast got things started in the corner by winning two separate puck battles, and knocked the puck down to Tanner Glass. With Fast occupying his man in the corner, Glass dished a quick pass out to Dan Girardi, and he bombed a shot on net. Pekka Rinne wasn't able to handle the hard shot through traffic, and the puck bounced right to Dominic Moore at the top of the crease.
Despite having the empty net, Rinne almost made it back in time to make the stick save, but the puck just barely trickled over the goal line. That restored the Rangers two goal lead with 15 minutes remaining, and a chance to regain first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Predators weren't able to gain much sustained pressure until the final three minutes, when Rinne escaped to the bench for the extra attacker.
After several icing calls, and a pair of timeouts, the Rangers finally iced the game at the 19:16 mark with Rick Nash notching his 38th goal of the year. Beating the Predators is a very nice start to a tough upcoming schedule for the Rangers, and they will need to put forth a similar effort heading into Detroit on Wednesday night.