The Nashville Predators took their turn on the big stage with their only national television appearance as they battled the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. After playing yesterday, the Predators went with Anders Lindback in net while the Rangers went with their usual starter Henrik Lundqvist.
Notable for the Predators was the absence of Ryan Suter, who played only 7:14 of the first period in the previous game and was called out due to an upper body injury
The Predators opened with some good jump and controlled the play early. The Predators recorded the first 4 shots on goal were cycling the puck well. The Rangers, by contrast, iced the puck three times in the first five minutes.
The Rangers reversed that momentum at 6:15 of the first period as Dan Girardi took a shot that was going to miss the net but hit Jack Hillen in the leg and ricocheted into the net to give them a 1-0 lead. A fluky goal, but good teams create chances- fluky or not.
The critical aspect of this goal was that Hillen and his defense partner, Ryan Ellis, were caught on the ice for 2:10 and were completely gassed, making it difficult for them to maintain defensive positioning.
The Predators created some chances and got shots on Lundqvist, but did not get many second chances as the Rangers defense did a great job of clearing the front of the net. When the Predators did get some good looks, they were unable to get a puck past Lundqvist.
The first period ended with the Rangers leading 1-0 and the Predators holding an 11-10 shot advantage.
The second period saw both teams get some good chances, and Lundqvist making some good saves to keep the Predators off the board. The Predators created some solid scoring opportunities, but just could not get a tally.
By contrast, the Rangers added a second score at 10:42 of the second period as John Mitchell took a shot that seemed to surprise Lindback and went through the five hole to make it 2-0.
That was the only goal of the period, and the Predators were out shot by the Rangers 11-8.
Though the Predators had some chances, they had yet to get a puck past Lundqvist, and in the third period, it was going to be critical that the Predators not only continue to get shots on goal, but to have players battling for rebounds. Second chances and dirty goals had to be the order of the day for the Predators.
The third period saw the Predators once again frustrated by the play of Lundqvist and the Rangers defense. They got shots on goal, but could not get second chances and opportunities for rebounds and second chances.
The Predators took a penalty as Marty Erat hooked Ryan Callahan on a breakaway chance and the net empty for the extra attacker at 19:09 of the third. The penalty resulted in an automatic goal for the Rangers, and that would ice the contest.
The Rangers out shot the Predators 28-27 for the contest.
The word that sums up this game is frustration. The Predators offense created chances, but could not finish and get a puck past Lundqvist. There is absolutely no doubt that Lundqvist is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, but the frustrating part of this game is the failure to get second chances on the pucks that were laying around the crease. Finishing chances was essential for the Predators to have a chance in this contest, and they did not.
Let's face it: the Predators were not going to win out for the remainder of the season. And they did some good things in this game. They just did not have what it took offensively to bury some chances and get back in the game.
So what does this team do now?
You get back to the basics and start another streak Thursday night in Columbus.
My three stars:
1. Henrik Lundqvist
2. Dan Girardi
3. John Mitchell