For the first few games of the season, the power play and the line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich were the Rangers’ best weapons.
For the last few games, the trio of Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast line has been the one that’s clicking.
Hayes scored the game-winner in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Predators. He has three goals and an assist in the last five games. Vesey had his first two points of the season (goal, assist) and Fast, who scored his first goal of the season, has two points in the last two games.
“Those two guys are honest players who work hard and don’t mind hitting guys” said Hayes, who played 16:55. “They generate a lot of space in the O-zone; we could have buried a lot more chances.”
“It’s a real hardworking line,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “Simple, north-south, get it in deep, work the corners, work on the forecheck . . . Kevin, with his size and hockey smarts, fits in real well.”
Fast, the right wing who has played in just four games since a five-month rehab from offseason hip surgery, was a plus-3 in 14:43, although he was whistled for two penalties.
“I’ve got a real dependable five-on-five player there,” said Vigneault, “and one of our best penalty-killers. He’s a big part of the energy on the team and he’s slowly but surely finding his rhythm. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but he’s improving.”
In their two previous losses, in overtime to the Penguins and a shootout to the Islanders, the Rangers had scored seven goals. Saturday’s result upped that to 11 in the last three . . . Chris Kreider’s goal was his first of the season; he had 28 last year . . . Mika Zibanejad won 14 of 22 faceoffs to lead all players . . . Brady Skjei blocked a game-high six shots . . . Forwards Paul Carey, Adam Cracknell and Steven Kampfer were healthy scratches. Nick Holden played 16:36 as the sixth defenseman. The seventh, Tony DeAngelo, played 4:12 of his 5:20 on the power play . . . The Rangers traded F Matt Puempel, who has played 79 games in the NHL, including 27 for the Rangers last season, to Detroit for 6-4 defenseman Ryan Sproul, who has played 28 NHL games in his career. Both were playing in the AHL.