The Rangers have adopted the late Al Davis’ credo, “Just win baby,” because that’s what they’ve been doing.
It hasn’t been the prettiest brand of hockey, but Alexis Lafreniere had a goal and an assist and the Rangers rode the hot goaltending of Igor Shesterkin to score a 3-1 over the Nashville Predators Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena for their third straight win.
“Gritty, gritty effort tonight,” coach Gerard Gallant said after another grind it out type win.
The Rangers are 3-1-1 and are off to their best, five game start since the 2009-2010 season
Shesterkin made 28 saves and has stopped 99 of the last 102 shots that he’s faced during the winning streak. “Shesty’s always there to back us up, he’s been playing so good since the start of the season,” Lafreniere said after the game.
It didn’t take long for the Rangers to get on the board. Filip Chytil put the puck past Predators goaltender Juuse Saros just 2:12 into the game for a 1-0 lead. Chytil took a nice feed from Sammy Blais, who assisted on both goals, and beat Soros over his right pad with a back hand shot for his first goal of the season.
Shesterkin’s only blemish came in the second period when Nashville’s Philip Tomasino scored his first NHL goal to tie the game, 1-1. Tomasino banked the puck off of Shesterkin’s back to become the third player this season to score his first career goal against the Rangers.
Early in the third period, it appeared the Rangers had taken a 2-1 lead when Ryan Lindgren scored off of a deflection, but the goal was taken off the board when Nashville successfully challenged that Artemi Panarin was off side.
The Rangers officially took a 2-1 lead when Lafreniere capped off a strong rush to the net. Adam Fox, who continues to play like he wants to win a second consecutive Norris Trophy, entered the Nashville zone on the right wing side and found Blais in the middle of the ice.
Blais made a quick pass to his left and Lafreniere was able to put it in the wide open net for the lead. “I knew he [Blais] saw me but just to make sure, I called for it” Lafreniere said. “Went to the net, stick on the ice and good things happen.”
Nashville pulled Saros with a little under two and half minutes left to try and tie the game. Jacob Trouba, who has played well, blocked a shot by the always dangerous Roman Josi and the Rangers were able to limit the number of good shots that the Predators got with the extra attacker.
Barclay Goodrow put the game away with his first Ranger goal, an empty net goal with six seconds left.
Saros made some big stops for Nashville but he was helped out by Zibanejad hitting the post twice while Chris Kreider also found iron.
The Rangers were 0 for 4 on the power play and that included a 5 on 3 advantage early in the second period. Despite the lack of results, Gallant feels the goals will come. “It’s gotta go in the back of the net sooner or later. If it’s not happening, I’m disappointed and frustrated but I think the way they’re moving it and making their plays, it’s gonna come,” he said.
The Rangers were 3 for 3 on penalty kill and are 9 for 9 in the past three games.
Blais continues to be a pleasant surprise since coming over the St Louis Blues in the Pavel Buchnevich trade. Blais was moved up to play on a line with Chytil and Lafreniere and had two assists. “I’m just trying to make space for them and make plays and I think, tonight we skated well and just had a good game overall,” Blais said.
“He’s mostly been a fourth line guy in St. Louis, a little bit up on the third line,” Gallant said. “He’s one of those guys that got real good hands as we see and he’s a big power forward.”
Morgan Barron made his season debut on a fourth line with Greg McKegg and Ryan Reaves and got a little over nine minutes of ice time.
The Rangers go for their fourth in a row in Ottawa Saturday afternoon in the finale of this four game road trip.