Rangers Win (in Regulation!) on the Road in Nashville

The Rangers entered last night’s game in Nashville owning a dubious distinction: in their 16 road games coming into this one, the Rangers had won zero of them in regulation. The Blueshirts finally bucked the trend and locked up two points in 60 minutes against a good (though struggling) Predators team.

Jesper Fast and Cody McLeod returned to the lineup after extended absences, and both players made immediate impacts. David Quinn reunited Fast with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider and the unit rewarded the coach with a combined 10 point outing, including two goals from Fast and four assists from Zibanejad. Cody McLeod decided to hit everything in sight during his first couple of shifts, which if nothing else made the first period more entertaining.

Henrik Lundqvist had to be good often in this one, though the Rangers tightened up defensively as the game wore on. It was an encouraging performance from the Rangers who are trying to right the ship as a disappointing December comes to a close.

Let’s take a look at the goals…

NYR 1, NSH 0

On Thursday night, Chris Kreider scored a deflected goal seven seconds into a power play. On Saturday night, Chris Kreider scored a deflected goal seven seconds into a power play. The Rangers’ top guys are still quite capable offensively, and the five forward power play unit has now cashed in twice in a row after coach Quinn threatened to blow it up.

NYR 1, NSH 1

This is great puck movement by Nashville, as the subtle interchange of PK Subban, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm opens up the shooting lane. The Rangers could have given Nick Bonino a more difficult time in front, but this is still a heck of a deflection.

NYR 2, NSH 1

Chris Kreider creates this goal with an aggressive forecheck, forcing the Ekholm turnover. Nashville had mostly fled the zone thinking Ekholm had the puck, leaving Jesper Fast wide open in front to convert Mika Zibanejad’s feed.

NYR 2, NSH 2

Pavel Buchnevich gets tangled with the linesman in the neutral zone, creating a fairly fortunate 2-on-1 scenario for Fiala. Neal Pionk backs in too far, and Marc Staal is too slow to get back, leaving Fiala an eternity to pick his spot and beat Lundqvist to the stick side.

NSH 3, NYR 2

Mats Zuccarello was sent to penalty box just moments after the referees missed a blatant cross-check on Kevin Hayes, but that’s really beside the point. The Rangers couldn’t get set after losing the face-off, and the ensuing scramble led to a Bonino rebound goal.

NSH 3, NYR 3

The Rangers actually executed a clean zone exit and rush up ice! A rare sight these days, but all five players contributed on this sequence, with Marc Staal finishing from the slot after receiving a beautiful saucer pass from Fast.

NYR 4, NSH 3

Jesper Fast slams home his second of the game, and Mika Zibanejad collects his fourth assist by putting it on a platter. The Rangers created offense again off of their forecheck, with Adam McQuaid initiating this play with a smart dump-in that evaded Pekka Rinne.

Heatmap and other fancy stats (from NaturalStatTrick.com)

The diagram above only accounts for un-blocked shot attempts at 5v5, but illustrates that the Rangers were fairly effective in keeping the Predators out of the slot, which generating their fair share of grade-A opportunities. After giving up 5 high-danger chances in the first period, they limited Nashville to just one the rest of the night. The penalty kill and 6-on-5 defense in the third period were very solid as well, as the Rangers figured out how to hold onto a lead, at least for a night.

Next up for the Rangers is a New Year’s Eve clash with the St. Louis Blues. Game time is 7:00 PM.