Rangers beat Predators as Cam Talbot earns second straight shutout
NASHVILLE -- The road-warrior Rangers eked out another victory away from Madison Square Garden Saturday night as first-year goalie Cam Talbot earned his second straight shutout, and Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan, playing in front of Team USA executives, scored in a 2-0 win over the Predators.
"It's a tough thing not to think about," Stepan said. "It's in the back of your head. You want to make sure you compete and show them what you've got."
The Rangers (12-11) took a 1-0 lead with 6:47 left in the second period when Ryan McDonagh, standing between the faceoff circles, deflected Dan Girardi's shot through the leags of goalie Marek Mazarec, who made 32 saves.
McDonagh, Stepan's teammate at the University of Wisconsin, played 25:58 and was a two-way force. "He's hitting his stride now," Stepan said. "He played big minutes last year and this year, he's playing important minutes. It's just another example of how Mac can just take over."
For McDonagh, the most potent Rangers defenseman, it was his fifth of the season, to go with seven assists.
Stepan, who also scored his fifth goal, provided an insurance goal 7:45 into the third period when he took a pass from Mats Zuccarello (two assists) on a two-on-one and wristed a shot inside the right post.
Talbot, now 5-1, faced just 17 shots; the previous low allowed this season by the Rangers was 19 against the Devils on Oct. 19. The Rangers, who Monday play the Lightning in Tampa Bay in the third game of this five-game trip, have a six-game road winning streak.
"We did a great job of limiting their opportunities off the rush which is what they excel on, they guys did a great job in front of me," said Talbot, who attended the University of Alabama-Huntsville. "Nice to be back down south. It was fun to get a start with all the dads in town and my dad [Mark], here to witness it."
With the game scoreless in the second, Paul Gaustad almost gave the Predators the lead on a deflection. But Talbot, who had earned his first NHL shutout in Montreal in his last start, kicked out his left pad to deaden the puck, and Michael Del Zotto cleared it out of the crease.
The Predators had won three straight; the Rangers had begun their five-game road trip with a 3-2 victory in Dallas on Thursday, but surrendered 43 shots on Henrik Lundqvist.
"We controlled the puck in their end so much," Ryan Callahan said, "and when we were in our end, we were closing out quickly making little outlet passes against a team that pressures a lot."
Although the Predators ranked fifth in the league at home on the power play at 28 percent, the Rangers held them scoreless in three chances.
Predators coach Barry Trotz, who worried that this might be a trap game for his team, coming off a 10-game road trip, gave credit to the Rangers. ''You can tell they had really good focus, they had their dads' trip so their guys had a lot of jump You could tell that they were pushing the pace. I thought their forecheck was really good tonight, and they did a really detailed job."
Alain Vigneault, dressed all in black, offered his own explanation. "I thought it was my Johnny Cash look."
Nashville defenseman Shea Weber hit the post at 17:10 and 18:48 of the third period.
Roman Josi later swiped at a bouncing rebound that ended up past the post before Talbot could slide over.
The Predators lost their third-leading scorer, Patric Hornqvist, who suffered an upper-body injury and did not return after the first intermission.