Kevin Fiala scored twice and the Nashville Predators defeated the New York Rangers by a 5-2 final on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. It’s Nashville’s second consecutive victory, giving them points in 10 of their last 11 outings and putting them just two points out of the Central Division lead with three games in hand.
Much like Thursday’s blasting of the Los Angeles Kings, the Preds put up five goals again and fed off the energy of the sold-out Bridgestone Arena crowd – with a record-setting 17,543 fans in attendance. And almost all of them went out into the night pleased with the result.
“I thought for 120 minutes it was pretty good, pretty consistent,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of his club’s last two games. “The guys were playing hard. We rolled the lines and rolled the D and had good goaltending.”
“I felt like we were ready to play tonight,” Nashville forward Colton Sissons said. “We played fast and we played with energy and played a pretty smart game.”
After a scoreless opening period, it took P.K. Subban 19 seconds into the middle frame to blast home his 13th tally of the season for a 1-0 Predators lead. Then, after Nashville elected to challenge a Rangers goal for offside – and succeeded yet again – Kevin Fiala beat Henrik Lundqvist before the stanza was out for his 14th of the campaign and a two-goal advantage after 40 minutes.
The second period also brought a bit of animosity – big hits and a scrap between Ryan Johansen and Brady Skjei – events that gave even more life to the Nashville bench.
“It gets the bad blood going a little bit… and you want it a little bit more when it gets like that,” Sissons said of the physicality. “It only made it a better hockey game tonight.”
“Yeah, there was a couple hits in there,” Predators forward Filip Forsberg smiled. “It was fun. As I said, they came out and wanted to be physical and I think we matched that, and points are important.”
The Rangers tallied twice on the power play in the third period, but the Predators struck back almost instantly on both occasions, refusing to let the Rangers even the score. Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson played the role of dream-crushers before Fiala added an empty-net marker to seal it.
Pekka Rinne continued to shine in net, making 20 saves for his 26th win of the season to give him a perfect 7-0-0 mark in his last seven decisions – as well as set the second longest shutout streak in franchise history at 171:47.
And with that, the Predators keep on finding ways to win, good news before embarking on a four-game trip out east that is sure to provide plenty of challenges.
Anything You Can Do…:
It took the Rangers just 21 seconds into the third period to cut Nashville’s lead to 2-1. That goal could’ve easily given New York all the energy necessary to mount a comeback. But Colton Sissons answered.
The Rangers did it again with less than six minutes to play – a power-play goal to cut the lead to one. But 16 seconds later, Viktor Arvidsson struck.
Sissons admitted it wasn’t the best third period for the home club, but the responses deflated the New York bench, and each time they thought they had something going, the team in Gold, and the crowd behind them, squashed all hope of the visitors salvaging a point.
“Really big to answer like that,” Laviolette said. “I don’t like the fact that we took three penalties in the third period. Right away, we had to play in the defensive zone and were taking shots. We had done a pretty good job staying out of the box. To go there three times is not good. That could cost us, but it didn’t. We were able to answer and come back with big goals right after they scored.”
It’s been a theme this season across Nashville’s 31 victories – just find a way to be on the right side of the ledger at the final horn. And much like the previous 30 occasions, they did just that.
“Oh it’s huge,” Forsberg said of the third-period goals. “We obviously know how it feels when they score a goal. You’re about to come back and the other team gets one right away, it kind of sucks the life out of you and we did that twice… I think that was the key for sure.”
With his goal on Saturday, P.K. Subban continues to average over a point per game over his last 21 contests, tallying nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points since Dec. 13. Subban is one of three NHL defensemen to lead his team in points.
Nashville has scored five goals in two-straight games; tonight is also the 10th time this season they’ve scored at least five.
The Predators will now head out for a four-game trip, beginning on Monday night in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders. Nashville will then jet off to Canada for contests in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to round out the excursion.