Two nights after allowing 23 first-period shots and 43 in total in a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, the Rangers tightended up their defensive game and held the Nashville Predators to only 17 shots Saturday night while skating to a 2-0 win at Bridgestone Arena. Cam Talbot followed up Henrik Lundqvist's phenomenal performance in Dallas with an efficent outing of his own Saturday, earning his second consecutive shutout.
Talbot's shutout streak now stands at 146 minutes 28 seconds. He blanked the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 last Saturday at the Bell Centre, and has now won his last five starts in goal. Talbot has not allowed more than two goals in any of his six starts this season, and has surrendered only eight in total. He had a bit of luck late in the third period when Preds captain Shea Weber twice rang shots off iron.
Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan scored for New York, which has won its first two games on this five-game road trip. It was the team's sixth straight victory on the road, and the Rangers are now back over .500 overall with a record of 12-11-0. Adding to the special nature of the victory is that it came in front of 18 of their fathers who are taking part in the team's Dads' Trip.
Holding a slim 1-0 lead, and having just killed off a Carl Hagelin penalty early in the third period, the Rangers doubled their advantage on Stepan's fifth goal of the season at 7:45 of the final period. Stepan stole the puck at center ice and then took off on a 2-on-1 with Mats Zuccarello. The skilled Norwegian forward made a sweet feed from left wing into the slot where Stepan roofed his shot under the crossbar for his first score in eight games. The assist was Zuccarello's second of the night.
Stepan's goal, and the Rangers stifling defense, helped the visitors secure at least one point for the 100th consecutive regular season game when the team carried a lead into the third period. The Rangers are now 94-0-6 since February of 2010 when leading after two periods of play.
After more than half the game had passed without a goal, the Rangers finally broke through at 13:13 of the second period to take a 1-0 lead. McDonagh, stationed in the high slot, deflected Dan Girardi's slap shot past Marek Mazanec for his fifth goal of the season after good work along the boards and quick passes by Chris Kreider and Zuccarello. Girardi and Zuccarello were credited with the assists on McDonagh's goal.
The Predators had a bit of a push back after the Rangers' goal, but Talbot calmly turned aside three more shots---including a booming slap shot by 19 year-old rookie defenseman Seth Jones---before the period ended. Talbot had 12 saves though 40 minutes of play as New York doubled up their hosts with a 24-12 shots advantage.
Talbot's highlight moment came six minutes into the middle stanza when he kicked out his left pad to stop the puck right along the goal line after Eric Nystrom's pass had struck teammates Paul Gaustad's leg outside of Talbot's crease.
Preds rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec was the busier of the goaltenders, but he often made even the difficult saves look routine, positioning himself perfectly nearly all the time. A prime case in point was four minutes into the third period when the Preds netminder anticipated perfectly and easily denied a Zuccarello point-blank opportunity.
The sleepy, quiet crowd at Bridgestone Arena awoke ever briefly midway through the second period. Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein drove Brian Boyle hard into the back boards where Boyle fell awkwardly head first, and Derek Dorsett then challenged Klein to a brief fight at center ice. Fortunately for the Rangers, Boyle slowly rose to his feet, but was able to shake off the hit and continue to play.
Next up the Rangers travel to Tampa where they will face the Lightning on Monday night.
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