If this was a boxing match, it would’ve been scored a unanimous decision in favor of the Predators. Considering all the pressure they applied, it could’ve been a TKO. Unlike prize fighting where blind judges score controversial decisions like the lopsided one Canelo Alvarez got over Miguel Cotto in Vegas on Saturday, hockey is decided on the scoreboard.
By night’s end at the World’s Most Famous Arena on 33rd between 7th and 8th Avenue, Henrik Lundqvist had beaten the Predators all by himself. The King stopped them in their tracks finishing with 31 saves en route to a shutout in a Rangers 3-0 win. That included 14 big ones in a lopsided first that saw Nashville pile up shots on three consecutive power plays. In total, the Blueshirts killed all five. When they weren’t blocking shots (26), Lundqvist was their best penalty killer thwarting the Preds time and again.
”I think the guys, when they see guys pay the price like that, it gives the bench energy,” Lundqvist pointed out of his defense’s commitment. ”As a goalie it gives you a lot of energy.”
The frustration level of the Preds escalated. They entered having not scored a goal in their last seven and a half periods. Facing the league’s hottest goalie, it only got worse. They couldn’t get anything past Lundqvist. The King was at his very best turning away a Preds’ onslaught during the first two periods. Nashville out-shot the Rangers 25-7 and out-attempted them 62-21. If you take away blocked shots with the Blueshirts rejecting 22, the Preds had a 40-12 edge in shot attempts. For the entire game, the Preds out-attempted the Rangers 75-41.
”So many chances,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. ”So many chances.”
That’s how it’s gone for them lately. Nashville has now been shutout in three straight setting a franchise record. They haven’t scored in the last 213:47. Even five power plays and total domination in the attack zone couldn’t aid them.
”We took way too many penalties,” Rangers alternate captain Marc Staal said after setting up a goal and blocking four shots. ”We started the game off killing almost the whole first half of the (first) period. … We had to try to get in some lanes and block shots.”
The combination of Staal (4), Kevin Klein (6), Dan Girardi (4) and Ryan McDonagh (4) blocked 18 of the team’s 26 shots. All four logged big minutes shorthanded making strong reads while sacrificing their bodies. Jarret Stoll blocked three to lead the forwards.
Even though the first 40 minutes were lopsided, the Rangers were opportunistic scoring the game’s first goal early in the second period. Rick Nash forced a turnover. After stealing the puck, he skated down the left wing on a 4-on-1 and fired a missile past Pekka Rinne for an unassisted goal at 4:22. He stayed hot following up his hat trick with a fourth goal over the last two.
”There’s a hole there,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Only a goal scorer can pick that hole against an elite goaltender.”