Heading into today’s game, the Nashville Predators had an 8-3-3 record and the ninth-best xGF% at 5-on-5 in the league (52.42). The New York Rangers, on the other hand, were looking to improve on their 1-2-0 record on the road in the afternoon matinee.
The Rangers squandered an early power play opportunity and were out-shot by the Preds in the first. However, a fabulous goal by Filip Chytil — his second in two games since being called up from the AHL — gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead before the period’s conclusion. Libor Hajek picked up the primary assist on the goal, but it was very much a Chytil highlight.
At the 4:16 mark of the second period — shortly after a Micheal Haley vs. Austin Watson scrap — the Rangers converted on a chance created by a Nashville turnover in the neutral zone. On the counterattack, Artemiy Panarin made a picture-perfect pass to Ryan Strome, who scored to pick up a point in his sixth consecutive game.
At the midway point of the second period, Chris Kreider muscled his way into a breakaway opportunity, but rang his shot off the post. Shortly thereafter, Jusse Saros made a big kick save on Strome, who found himself all alone in front of the net with a prime scoring opportunity. Not long after that, Kaapo Kakko broke away from the pack at the end of his shift and, with a defender hounding him from behind, put a shot on net that Saros was able to turn aside.
A Tony DeAngelo penalty put the Predators on the power play at the 14:02 mark of the second period. After hitting the post with their first coordinated attack, Viktor Arvidsson delivered for the Predators with a deflection from Filip Forsberg that cut the Rangers’ lead in half.
In the final moments of the second period, Strome delivered a dramatic crosscheck to the back of Mattias Ekholm who had been working over Jesper Fast in the corner. Strome earned a minor penalty for the infraction that sparked the end-of-the-period scrum. The Preds put 14 shots on net in the second, while the Rangers managed just eight of their own.
The Rangers started the third period with a successful kill, but only weathered a flurry of early chances from Nashville thanks to some outstanding goaltending from Alexandar Georgiev. At the midway point of the third, Chytil found himself all alone in front of the net and made enough moves to make a Grandmaster in Chess blush, but was unable to beat Saros — who made a sensational save — on the backhand. Chytil’s chance was a sign that things were opening up, with Nashville hunting for the tying goal. After some back-and-forth hockey, Brendan Smith took a penalty for holding at the 14:43 mark, putting the Preds’ dangerous offense back on the power play.
Georgiev and company came through with a big kill, but the Rangers went right back to shorthanded hockey after Hajek was called for tripping with 2:21 left in regulation. Somehow, the refs missed a clear takedown of Chytil that created the one-on-one matchup between Ryan Johansen and Hajek. With the game on the line, the Preds pulled the goalie but couldn’t deliver their second power play goal of the game. A big shot block from Fast in the final seconds sealed the deal and gave the Rangers their second consecutive win against a Cup contender.
Georgiev finished with 32 saves, Strome kept his scoring streak rolling, and Chytil could have easily ended up with three goals.