Rangers ease past Predators in Yandle's debut

Mike G. Morreale  - Staff Writer | Monday, 03.02.2015 / 11:23 PM

NEW YORK – New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault wasn't too concerned with the fact his players were probably relieved knowing the NHL Trade Deadline had expired Monday at 3 p.m. ET.

What did interest him was how the Rangers would respond against the top team in the NHL, the Nashville Predators, at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

The Rangers gave Vigneault a reason to smile following a 4-1 win on goals by Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Dominic Moore and Rick Nash. Goaltender Cam Talbot made 25 saves, defenseman Keith Yandle stood out in his Rangers debut, and Mats Zuccarello, who earlier in the day signed a contract extension, had two assists.

"I thought for [Yandle's] first game it was good outing but as a team it was one of the more complete efforts we've had," Vigneault said. "We were real solid defensively against the number one team in the League; we didn't give them a lot of good looks. I thought we generated quite a lot."

The Rangers (39-17-6) outshot the Predators 40-26 and denied them on three power-play opportunities. The Rangers have killed 25-of-28 over the past 10 games.

"It felt like they had the power play during our power play and that was the biggest difference," Predators forward Mike Ribeiro said. "When we were down 2-0, we score and we're in the game, but failed on the power play."

Talbot (13-6-3) made 10 saves in the third period when fans serenaded him with chants of "Talbot! Talbot!" Derick Brassard also had two assists.

Matt Cullen scored for the Predators and goalie Pekka Rinne, who has lost five of his past six starts (1-4-1), made 36 saves. Predators coach Peter Laviolette pulled Rinne with 3:45 remaining in regulation for an extra attacker, but Nashville could only generate two shots.

Nash scored into an empty net for his 38th goal with 44 seconds left.

"We're excited and confident and had a good feeling going in to play the best team in the NHL," Staal said. "We were solid right from the start and played a very good game. [The end of the NHL Trade Deadline] was a weight off our shoulders in this room. We're excited to get going down the stretch."

Staal didn't think it was as much of a statement game as it was a motivational boost following a 4-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

"We wanted to come in and beat this team and I don't think it's so much a statement game because we know what we have in here and we know we can win a lot of hockey games," Staal said. "It was a good test and excited to know [the makeup of] our group moving forward."

Much of the attention was directed at Yandle, who received a big ovation when announced as a starter prior to the game.

In the first of three trades on Sunday, Rangers general manager Glen Sather acquired Yandle, Chris Summers and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft from the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman John Moore, forward prospect Anthony Duclair, a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional first-round pick in 2016.

"I had a little bit of butterflies and I was nervous a little bit just being on a new team but the crowd did a great job of welcoming me," Yandle said. "The teammates in here made it really easy for me. It was a fun game and great to get a win."

Yandle, who said prior to the game that "you can't hide from the lights" of Madison Square Garden, logged 19:41 of ice time. Despite not having a chance to practice with the team, Yandle made good decisions with the puck and was given time alongside both Kevin Klein and Dan Boyle, just as coach Alain Vigneault suggested would happen in his pregame conference.

"I've been admiring [Yandle's] highlights for a long time and he's a very gifted offensive-defenseman," Staal said. "He makes a lot of great plays and we're excited to get to play with him."

The nine-season veteran defenseman had three shots, five attempts at the net, one hit and one steal.

"It was difficult [adjusting to the new system], but the coaches and all the guys made it easy on me, kind of step by step, taking it one shift at a time," Yandle said.

The Rangers, 9-1-1 in their past 11 games, moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division and are tied with the New York Islanders at 84 points with two games in hand. The Rangers begin a five-game road trip against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

The Predators (41-16-7) have lost three straight games for the first time this season, but remain first in the League with 89 points. Nashville had lost two straight on four occasions. They complete a two-game Eastern Conference road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

"It will be good to see some of the character come through [on Tuesday] in order to get out of this," Ribeiro said. "We need to keep believing in what we're doing here and pay attention to the details of the game, special teams. It's just the small details that are hurting us right now; I guess we might as well lose now than later on."

Moore gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead 5:51 into the third period when he pushed a rebound past Rinne in the slot while on his knees.

The Predators pulled to within 2-1 in the second when Cullen scored his second goal in two games at 15:24. Mike Santorelli, who was acquired by the Predators on Feb. 15 in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, got the secondary assist on the goal, his first point in six games with Nashville.

Predators rookie Filip Forsberg almost tied the game at 17:26 when he beat Dan Girardi 1-on-1 and took a quick wrist shot from in tight that Talbot stopped with his left pad.

Kreider scored his 17th goal off a tip-in in the slot to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead 4:14 into the second. After hopping over the boards and skating to the net, Kreider took a quick pass from the right circle by Zuccarello.

Earlier in the day, the Rangers agreed to a reported four-year contract extension with Zuccarello worth $18 million. The deal included a no-trade clause in the first season, according to

"This is where I want to be and I want to be a part of this team," Zuccarello said. "I want to try and win with this team. This is where I have been all along, this is home and it feels nice that I'm going to be able to try and win with this team for a period now and I feel really happy about that."

Staal scored his first goal in eight games in the first period when he took a drop pass from Zuccarello in the left circle and fired a shot that went past Rinne on the long side at 6:36. Brassard appeared as though he was passing to Nash, but Zuccarello intercepted the puck and left it for Staal.

"I don't know if the fact [Zuccarello] signed his big deal here today was the reason he had a good game," Vigneault said with a grin. "We need him to be on top of his game. He's one of our more skilled players and he competed really hard."

Scoring Summary
1st Period
06:36NYR Marc Staal (5) ASST: Mats Zuccarello (24), Derick Brassard (36) 1 - 0 NYR
2nd Period
04:14NYR Chris Kreider (17) ASST: Mats Zuccarello (25), Derick Brassard (37) 2 - 0 NYR
15:24NSH Matt Cullen (7) ASST: Taylor Beck (6), Mike Santorelli (19) 2 - 1 NYR
3rd Period
05:51NYR Dominic Moore (6) ASST: Dan Girardi (15), Tanner Glass (3) 3 - 1 NYR
19:16NYR EN - Rick Nash (38) ASST: Kevin Klein (17) 4 - 1 NYR
Three Stars of the Game
Mats Zuccarello
G: 0Shots: 1
A: 2Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 2
+/-: 2TOI: 17:59
Cam Talbot
SA: 26TOI: 60:00
GA: 1EV: 23-24
PIM: 0PP: 2-2
SV%: .962SH: 0-0
Chris Kreider
G: 1Shots: 3
A: 0Hits: 2
PTS: 1PIM: 0
+/-: 1TOI: 14:26
Penalty Summary
1st Period
12:52NYR Mats Zuccarello  Hi-sticking against  Shea Weber
2nd Period
05:24NSH Matt Cullen  Interference against  Carl Hagelin
08:58NYR J.T. Miller  Too many men/ice - bench against  Mattias Ekholm
3rd Period
13:51NYR Derick Brassard  Tripping against  Filip Forsberg
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays0/30/1
Faceoff Wins3631
Blocked Shots611
Penalty Minutes26
3S. JonesD0000017:17
6S. WeberD00-42029:47
7M. CullenC1002211:45
9F. ForsbergL00-33018:52
10M. SantorelliC0103012:12
12M. FisherC00-30018:17
14M. EkholmD00-10021:39
15C. SmithR00-23015:51
18J. NealR00-15020:57
24E. NystromL0000010:59
28P. GaustadC0000011:07
33C. WilsonL0001018:31
41T. BeckL0102011:41
44C. FransonD0002017:53
57G. BourqueR0000010:35
59R. JosiD00-22028:35
63M. RibeiroC00-11020:36
64V. BartleyD001004:49
35P. Rinne3639.92356:37
5D. GirardiD0112020:40
8K. KleinD0104020:50
10J. MillerC0000011:27
13K. HayesR0003010:34
15T. GlassL0103010:31
16D. BrassardC0220217:41
18M. StaalD1021018:51
19J. FastR000009:39
20C. KreiderL1013014:26
21D. StepanC0012018:54
22D. BoyleD0022017:49
26M. St. LouisR0003014:37
27R. McDonaghD0023022:09
28D. MooreC1012013:22
36M. ZuccarelloR0221217:59
61R. NashL1024020:15
62C. HagelinL0004014:35
93K. YandleD00-13019:41
33C. Talbot2526.96260:00