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Lundqvist makes 31 saves, Rangers blank Predators

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- The Nashville Predators ran into the wrong goalie at the wrong time and found themselves on the wrong side of a shutout again.

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves, and forwards Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes scored in a 3-0 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Nashville (11-6-3) has been shut out in three consecutive games and hasn't scored a goal in the past 213:47. The Predators have 103 shots on goal and are 0-for-10 on the power play in that time. They were 0-for-5 with the man-advantage against the Rangers (16-3-2).

"Our goalie was unbelievable again," Nash said. "It seems to be a trend every single night that he's our best player."

Lundqvist improved on his NHL-best goals-against average (1.74) and save percentage (.946) with his second shutout. It was his 12th win, tying him with Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals for the League lead.

The Predators, who were averaging 3.00 goals per game through their first 17 games, have seen that number dip to 2.55 with the three shutout losses.

Their frustration started to show in the third period, when they committed five minor penalties. Center Mike Ribeiro was sent to the dressing room early because of a 10-minute misconduct at 18:13 for arguing with the officials following a slashing call on forward James Neal.

"You try to work through it, but when it happens three times in a row, you're getting pretty frustrated," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.

The worst part for the Predators is that they feel they deserved better in two of the past three games. They had 39 shots on goal and 84 shot attempts in 4-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. They outshot the Rangers 31-19 and finished with a 75-41 advantage in shot attempts.

"We've got to find a way to stay with it. We can't get frustrated," Predators captain Shea Weber said. "It's tough to say that when you haven't scored in three games."

The Predators are so cold that they couldn't even score when Lundqvist was a non-factor.

Center Calle Jarnkrok had a shot go off the crossbar at 8:38 of the third period, and forward Filip Forsberg missed the net in the second period when Lundqvist was out by the faceoff circles because of an aggressive attempt to play the puck.

Forsberg hasn't scored since Oct. 15, a span of 16 games. He scored 26 goals last season.

"I don't think that they're not trying to put it in the net when you end up with 30 quality chances out of 75, 80 attempts at the net," Laviolette said. "The guys are trying to score, and it's not dropping right now. They worked their tails of tonight and again it didn't go our way."

It didn't in part because of Lundqvist and New York's penalty-killers. The Rangers were shorthanded four times in the first period, including a high-sticking double minor by Stepan at 16:39, but blocked seven shots and allowed eight to get to Lundqvist on the penalty kills.

The Rangers finished the game with 26 blocked shots, including six from defenseman Kevin Klein, who was hobbled by a slap shot from Weber, the winner of the NHL's hardest-shot competition at 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend with a blast of 108.5 mph.

"I think he fired from the blue line one time and I didn't even react to it, so for them to step in front of that and pay the price, [I have] a lot of respect for that," Lundqvist said. "I think the guys, when they see guys pay the price like that, it gives the bench energy. As a goalie, it gives you energy."

The Rangers also got energy again from Nash, who scored his sixth goal of the season and fourth in the past two games on an individual rush at 4:32 of the second period. Nash blew past Predators center Mike Fisher and scored from the left circle on a short-side wrist shot.

Nash also had a hat trick, including the overtime winner, in New York's 5-4 victory at the Florida Panthers on Saturday. He scored two goals in his first 17 games.

"I already could tell this morning in practice just the way he was shooting the puck and around the net; he's hungry, and I'm just happy for him," Lundqvist said. "He deserves it the way he's been working and making so many good plays. Now the goals are coming, so it's great to see."

New York has won nine in a row at home.

The Rangers had a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 25-7 through two periods, including 14-6 at even strength. The Predators had a 62-21 advantage in shot attempts. One of New York's shots was a 131-foot slap shot at the end of the first period.

"It was challenging but fun," Lundqvist said.

The Rangers responded in the third with their best 20-minute stretch.

Stepan scored his sixth goal at 4:23, when he was alone in the slot to receive a pass from defenseman Marc Staal. Hayes, who also had an assist on Stepan's goal, made it 3-0 with a power-play goal at 10:38.

The Rangers had 12 shots on goal in the third. It helped that they got four power plays, including three after Stepan scored.

"That means a lot to the team, knowing that we're finding our game as the game moves on," Lundqvist said. "We don't get hurt, and then we make them pay."

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