Plenty of good songs can be written about how hockey became a hit in The Music City that is Nashville.
Then again, none of those tunes mean much to the Rangers who turned off another visitor from the Western Conference, this time the pesky Predators.
Coached by the ever-popular — as long as you don’t play for him — Peter Laviolette, the Preds have plenty of glitz and talent.
P.K. Subban, the headline-grabbing defenseman, leads the way but on Thursday night at The Garden the best initials for his — and his teammates’ work was N.G.E — as in not good enough.
Streaking yet again — four in a row — the Rangers simply laughed off a two-goal deficit, closed the final minute leading 4-3 and then held their breath as the Preds conveniently missed an open-net tying goal with seconds remaining. Good teams, like the Rangers, win that way: holding on for the triumph.
OVERVIEW: Boasting a four-game win streak, the Rangers’ resiliency once again became apparent. Thanks to the NHL’s most varied set of forwards, the Blueshirts invariably find goals whether they’re playing their A-game or struggling to regain it. One night J.T. Miller is the star and on Thursday night it was Kevin Hayes. Plus, I’m sure you’ve heard this one before; Michael Grabner continues to push red lights with the ease of a Sidney Crosby. Grabner’s latest was number 26. Sometimes the Rangers’ fourth line should be dubbed the first line. Other nights the so-called second line is better than the first unit.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- TRIO TERRIFIC: Call ’em what you will, but the threesome of Hayes, Grabner and Miller had “First Line” written all over them. Calling their performance “brilliant” might — in this case — be an understatement. The Three Stars, in this order, were Hayes, Miller and Grabner. Why not? They all had big games.
- NICE AND HOMELY: After a stretch when the Blueshirts seemed allergic to wins at The Garden, they have successfully reversed that tiresome trend with three straight Ws on Seventh Avenue.
- BIG APPLE TURNOVERS: The Rangers created significant offense off turnovers. This led to New York’s first two goals thrusting the home club right back into the game. In this case, good defense led to good offense.
- BOUNCING BACK — IN FRONT: With the heavy arsenal Alain Vigneault has at his disposal, virtually no deficit is too much to overcome. On this night, the Rangers rebounded from down 2-0 to tie it and then surge in front to stay.
- KING’S 399TH AND COUNTING: Impressive once again, Henrik Lundqvist racked up his 399th career victory and third straight W in this current streak. In a sense, it was “deja-vu all over again.” His Majesty made the big saves early in the game to keep his mates close and they eventually took over from there. Henny produced 34 stops for his night’s work.
BEST SAVE: With the score tied 2-2 late in the second period, Lundqvist stopped Ryan Johansen’s one-timer by sliding from right to left for the gem of the evening.
TURNING POINT: Lady Luck intervened on the Blueshirts’ behalf on the winning goal, credited to Miller. Ryan McDonagh‘s original shot did a good imitation of a pinball eventually bouncing off Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm and into the twine.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- MSG NETWORKS ANALYST RON DUGUAY: “What won it for New York was the team’s resolve and ability to stick to the game plan. When they were down 2-0, they remained patient and stayed with it. That was one of the most important factors in the victory.”
- KEVIN HAYES: “The three of us (Grabner, Miller, Himself) compliment each other well. I like to pass and the other two clearly like to score. Right now, those guys are scoring at will. They get the puck to me in the zone and then we go from there.”
- MSG NETWORKS ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “Hayes is a guy willing to take the responsibility of being a really good player.”
- HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “Kevin Klein made the biggest play. He came back for a rebound after a two-on-one and locked their guy’s stick so that he couldn’t put it in. Right after that, we scored our first goal and the momentum changed.”
- MAVEN REPORTER DYLAN TURNER: “Early in the season, the Rangers almost never played from behind. It’s been very important for them lately to play from behind — and win.”
- ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “It was very simple; we were down 2-0 and Hank has to make two key saves and he makes them. Talk about ‘timely saves,’ those two were it and we got going after that.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Colorado vs. Rangers on Saturday, 6:30 p.m. TV: MSG Networks.
BOTTOM LINE: Slowly but relentlessly, a contending Cup team is being built. “We’ve got a lot of confidence,” concluded captain Ryan McDonagh, “with four good lines and three D-pairs, while our goaltending has been huge.”