The Rangers miss too many opportunities to lose to the Predators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Rangers persisted through a blue-black battle against the Predators on Saturday night, but didn’t do enough on the scoreboard.
It was a miracle that every skater on the Rangers played until the final minute of this 2-1 loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, who set the physical tone early and used it to avoid a third straight loss. The Rangers showed the same fight, but not the same offensive output.
“We had our chances,” captain Jacob Trouba said after the loss, which dropped the Rangers to 7-6-3 on the season and marked goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s fifth loss in five starts. “I think the goalkeeper played well. It’s one of those, it’s frustrating. All we can do is keep playing and keep creating shots, keep creating chances and hope things turn around for us here.”
Both of Nashville’s goals were scored by players who had been recalled from their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, in recent weeks. The Rangers dominated the Predators for much of the game, holding a 35-18 advantage in shots on goal, and narrowly missed the mark on a tying attempt after Filip Chytil made it a game goal in the second period.
The Blueshirts have as much strength as they do skill, something they’ve proven time and time again. And that muscle was needed in front of a raucous crowd that served as a reminder why Nashville is called “Smashville.” It may have been the Predators who started the rough pace, but the Rangers not only held their own, but presented their own challenge as a physical force.
Perhaps the Rangers will benefit from taking advantage of his black and blue shirt ways on a consistent basis.
“I think we showed tonight that we can play that style of hockey,” Vincent Trocheck told The Post. “Close games like this – 2-1 games, 1-0 games – are important. Especially come playoff time. I thought we played pretty well in an atmosphere like this. It’s nice to see us respond.”
Tensions began to rise in the second period, which the Rangers entered with a one-goal lead. Ryan Lindgren dropped his gloves chasing down Predators center Ryan Johansen, but the refs got in the way. Shortly after, Jeremy Lauzon went after Lindgren and did more than his fair share of licks, sending the 24-year-old defenseman to the Rangers locker room with blood dripping down his face.
The Rangers then briefly lost Sammy Blais, who blocked a strong shot and appeared to be in immense pain before limping to the locker room. Both Blais and Lindgren returned to the Rangers bench before the second intermission, but it was clear the entire lineup was feeling the effects of the Predators’ physical play.
Just when it looked like the game was settled, Mika Zibanejad fired a shot that clipped Jimmy Vesey right in the face behind the Predators net. Vesey had a hard mark on his face and had to be treated by Rangers manager Jim Ramsey, but the forward remained on the bench and did not miss a shift.
“That was scary,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said. “But he said he was fine, so there was no problem.”
Ryan Reaves, who stepped back into the lineup after Vitali Kravtsov sat out with a stomach problem, did what he does best in a game where the Rangers needed it. In a heavyweight tilt with Tanner Jeannot, Reaves led the Predators in convincing fashion. Reaves has slid down the depth chart and served as a healthy scratch in the previous three games, but the Rangers benefited from the hard-hitting wing’s presence in this one.
The Rangers won’t always have Reaves. That shouldn’t matter. They clearly have all the fight they need and should use it more.
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