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Post-Game Musings: at NY Rangers

by Jim Diamond / Nashville Predators
All good things must come to an end, and the Predators five-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday night after dropping a 3-0 decision to the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. For nearly the entirety of the 60-minute contest, the Rangers showed why they are atop both the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference.


While the Rangers feature some top-level talent up front, it was some of the lesser known Blueshirts that got on the scoreboard when the final score was still in question. Defenseman Dan Girardi scored in the first and center John Mitchell doubled it midway through the second. Keeping the likes of Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards off of the score sheet for 60 minutes was a tribute to the solid defensive effort the Predators displayed Tuesday.

New York’s third goal was of the empty-net variety, even though the puck never actually went in the net. With goaltender Anders Lindback pulled for an extra attacker, the Rangers Ryan Callahan had a breakaway toward the open net. Martin Erat hooked Callahan on the play and the NHL’s Rule 57.4 states:
57.4 Awarded Goal - If, when the opposing goalkeeper has been removed from the ice, a player in control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone is tripped or otherwise fouled with no opposition between him and the opposing goal, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, the Referee shall immediately stop play and award a goal to the attacking team.

THREE MUSINGS

Swedish Goaltending Battle: Head Coach Barry Trotz selected Anders Lindback as his starter for Tuesday night’s game against the Rangers. It was Lindback’s first NHL start since December 20th at Washington. In addition to one relief appearance since then, Lindback did see two full games between the pipes when he was sent to Milwaukee less than two weeks ago. With Tuesday’s game the second half of a back-to-back set, Trotz gave Lindback the opportunity to face his countryman Henrik Lundqvist, who manned the crease for the Rangers. Despite taking the loss, Lindback played well in the game. In addition to facing Lundqvist, Lindback was playing in Madison Square Garden, a.k.a the World’s Most Famous Arena, not to mention the fact that the NBC Sports Network broadcast the game on national television.

Sustained Pressure Leads to First Goal Against: The only goal of Tuesday’s first period was a result of the Rangers keeping sustained pressure on the Predators in the offensive zone. That pressure forced the defensive pairing of Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis into taking a long, very long, shift of 2:10. That shift ended when New York defenseman Dan Girardi’s seemingly harmless wrist shot from near the right boards deflected off of the shaft of Hillen’s stick and by a surprised Anders Lindback at the 6:15 mark. While prolonged shifts are sometimes unavoidable, they usually occur in the second period when teams have to make the long trek back to their bench for the long change. Extra long shifts are also tough to recover from for players, so their next shifts tend to be difficult as their legs and lungs can still be burning.

Good Friends, Similar Playing Styles: Barry Trotz and his New York counterpart John Tortorella have been good friends since their days of coaching against one another in the American Hockey League. In addition to their friendly relationship off the ice, Tuesday’s game showed that the pair also coach their teams to a similar style on the ice. Both teams play a high-pressure and hard-forechecking game. The Rangers were coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss in Montreal Sunday, so Tortorella made sure his charges remedied a lot of the mistakes that cost them goals against the Canadiens, and that spelled bad news for the Predators Tuesday. After getting a 2-0 lead against the Predators, the Rangers played a solid defensive game that limited Nashville’s shots to the outside, resulting in very few quality scoring chances for the Predators in their attempt to climb back in the game. In the waning minutes of the game, the Rangers maintained puck possession deep in the Nashville zone.


THREE STARS
G Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers: 27 saves; fourth shutout of the season
D Dan Girardi, Rangers: Game-winning goal, +3 plus/minus rating
G Anders Lindback, Predators: 26 saves
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