Rangers shut down Predators in 2-0 win

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- New York Rangers rookie goaltender Cam Talbot enjoyed a homecoming of sorts Saturday night.
Playing 90 minutes or so from where he starred in college at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Talbot notched his second straight shutout, turning away 17 shots in a 2-0 Rangers win over the Nashville Predators.
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored in the second period and center Derek Stepan added an insurance marker in the third as Talbot (5-1-0) won for the fifth straight time and kept his opponent under two goals for the sixth straight start. He becomes the first New York rookie to accomplish that feat since Lorne Chabot in the 1926-27 season.
"It's nice to be back down south," Talbot said. "I used to make trips up here every off-week. It was nice to get the start down here and win in front of my dad."
Talbot didn't have to exert himself that much as his teammates turned in arguably one of their best all-around games this season. In improving to 2-0-0 on their five-game road trip, the Rangers (12-11-0) outshot Nashville (11-10-2) 34-17 and repeatedly choked off the Predators' offense in the neutral zone.
It was a sharp contrast from a 3-2 win Thursday night at Dallas, which squeezed off 43 shots at regular goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
"The guys didn't give Nashville a whole (heck) of a lot," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "They were focused and ready right from the start. They executed really well. We managed the puck really well and generated a lot of scoring opportunities."
It was obvious from the get-go that the Rangers had the bounce. They outshot the Predators 7-2 in the game's first 10 minutes, and other than the last 10 minutes of the first, in which they didn't manage a shot, they kept the pressure on Predators rookie goalie Marek Mazanec.
Most of the night, Mazanec (3-3-0) was up to the task, notching 32 saves and keeping his team in the game. But he couldn't do much on the two shots which wound up in the net.
After a long stretch of offensive zone time in the second period, New York broke the scoreless seal when McDonagh deflected a blue line slap shot from fellow defenseman Dan Girardi at 13:13.
It was the fifth goal for McDonagh, highlighting a team-high 25 minutes and 58 minutes of ice time.
"We had good, long shifts in the O-zone and we were able to come at them with speed," he said. "We talked about our transition game and our gaps, because we hadn't been able to consistently spend time in the zone. We did that tonight."
The Rangers tacked on insurance at 7:45 of the third. Stepan stole the puck from left winger Viktor Stalberg at center ice, then finished off a 2-on-1 when he converted left winger Mats Zuccarello's feed into his fifth goal.
That was more than enough for Talbot, who didn't have to make a lot of spectacular stops, other than denying center Paul Gaustad's deflection at the goalmouth when the game was scoreless early in the second period.
"They had good structure," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of New York. "They've got their identity now. They play fast. You have to give them credit. I don't think we played that badly, but we just didn't have enough offensive zone time."
Talbot benefited from a little puck luck in the last three minutes as defenseman Shea Weber and center Matt Cullen clanged shots off the goal post and crossbar, respectively. But that didn't detract from his ability to stay sharp with so little action for most of the night.
"You can't afford to take a second off because they might come at you with their best scoring chance of the night," Talbot said.
NOTES: Nashville scratched C Filip Forsberg with an upper-body injury, but LW Eric Nystrom returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury. ... New York was awarded penalty shots in its previous two games, only the second time in franchise history that has happened. The first time? Way back in November of 1934. ... Predators RW Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. ... The Rangers' first period penalty kill made them 14 of 15 in their last five-plus games, dating back to Nov. 10.

What to Read Next