Once again, Cam Talbot delivered. With his Dad watching along with other teammates’ fathers, he stopped 17 shots en route to his second straight shutout. In just his sixth NHL start, the 26-year old rookie won for the fifth time backstopping the Rangers past the Predators 2-0.
He didn’t have to be special. But Talbot proved steady when needed coming up with timely saves. That included a couple of late goalposts from dangerous Nashville defenseman Shea Weber. It allowed him to extend his shutout streak to 146 minutes, 28 seconds.
”It’s nice to be back down south, I’ve always loved it down here,” a pleased Talbot said after a sort of homecoming. During his collegiate career, he played for the University Of Alabama-Huntsville which is 100 miles south of Nashville. ”It was fun to get the start down here.”
Most importantly, his teammates played well in front of him. They limited the Preds’ chances and took away the neutral zone. Against a stingy opponent who makes its living capitalizing on mistakes, the Rangers were able to sneak two past Czech rookie Marek Mazanec. He entered having won his previous three starts. Following a scoreless first period, Dan Girardi sent a shot towards Mazanec that partner Ryan McDonagh redirected past the Nashville goalie for his fifth at 13:13 of the second.
”G had a lot of time. I knew he was going to get a puck going to the net,” McDonagh said. ”We’ve talked about getting deflections and dirty goals, and I just happened to be in the right spot there. It was a great shot.”
Seeing McDonagh drive the net for the neat deflection was refreshing. He’s still only in his fourth year but already is within two goals of a career best seven achieved in ’11-12. His five markers and 12 points pace our D. He also was stellar defensively logging the most minutes (25:58) of our skaters with Girardi right behind (25:53). Speaking of Danny G, it’s nice to see him show confidence offensively. It’s been few and far between for a player who benefited most under John Tortorella’s defensive scheme. He has assists in two straight and is coming around. Vital for any Rangers success.
The Preds didn’t create many opportunities. But took seven shots in the middle stanza. Talbot stayed sharp. A good characteristic for a young NHL goalie. Sometimes when you don’t see much action, you lose focus. That clearly wasn’t the case here as his positioning was solid and looked poised throughout. There also was a scrap between Derek Dorsett and Kevin Klein. Dorsett didn’t like Klein’s hit that knocked Brian Boyle off balance into the glass. He took up for him and got clocked by Klein. It was still admirable for a guy gaining in popularity. That kind of stuff is good for team camaraderie.
Former Ranger Matt Cullen had the best chance I can think of. He fanned on a point blank chance in front and then Weber hit the post. It summed up a frustrating night for Nashville. With the Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead, Derek Stepan forced a turnover leading to him erasing a seven-game drought with his fifth at 7:45 of the third. Similar to the 3-2 win over Dallas, his defensive awareness led to a goal. Only instead of a teammate finishing like Chris Kreider, he took a Mats Zuccarello feed and beat a still recovering Mazanec for a crucial insurance tally. It was the kind of play you expect from Stepan. A smart two-way pivot who still must improve on face-offs. He lost nine of 12.
All that was left was whether Talbot would get the shutout. He turned aside all five Predator shots in the third and had some luck thanks to a couple of posts on top heavy Weber shots. Sometimes, you need the bounces. He got them. The most important aspect of this win was it was a solid overall performance. Their second consecutive win on a five-game road trip improved the Rangers to 8-6-0 away from MSG. Amazingly, they’ve won six in a row on the road. Dating back to Talbot’s first win- a 3-2 triumph at Detroit on Oct. 26- the Rangers have outscored opponents 16-8.
Interestingly enough, Talbot has started every game away from MSG and is 5-1-0 with a 1.32 GAA, .949 save percentage and two shutouts. You wonder if it’s by design. In any event, it’s certainly working out well so far. With three more games including two in three nights in Tampa and Florida, he’s sure to get at least one start. Figure Alain Vigneault to save Henrik Lundqvist for a Black Friday visit in Boston.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Shea Weber, Nsh (3 SOG, 4 missed, 2 goalposts, -1 in 27:49-certainly had his chances)
2nd Star-Mats Zuccarello, NYR (2 assists, 3 SOG, +2 in 17:30-Zucc is a smart player)
1st Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (5th of season, game-winner, +1 in 25:58-one of his best efforts)