Mike Fisher returned to the lineup and James Neal tallied twice as the Nashville Predators defeated the New York Rangers 5-3 at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night. The final home game of the calendar year for the Preds saw the team score three times in the third period on the way to their 18th victory of the season.
“I thought it was a solid effort,” Fisher said. “Periods one, two, three, I thought we played well. Made it a little interesting at the end, but I thought everyone played really well, so it was a fun game.”
Filip Forsberg extended his point streak to five games when he struck on the power play before the opening frame was out, one-timing a Roman Josi cross-ice feed under the arm of Henrik Lundqvist to give Nashville a 1-0 advantage. Forsberg’s 10th of the season was his third in two games.
Jesper Fast redirected a Dan Girardi point shot at 6:59 of the second period past Pekka Rinne to even the score at 1-1, but James Neal snapped home his team-leading 14th goal of the season from the slot at 13:48 to give Nashville the lead once more.
Forsberg thought he had registered his second of the night with a nifty bank shot from behind that net that caromed in off a Rangers defender, but New York called for a coach’s challenge and won, as Craig Smith was judged to have interfered with Lundqvist.
Smith answered that call with a goal of his own at 7:34 deflecting Josi’s shot from the blue line into the twine for a two-goal lead. Ryan Ellis got in on the party at 9:52 for Nashville’s second power-play goal for the night, and then Neal deposited his second of the evening less than two minutes later, spelling the end of Lundqvist’s night, pulled in favor of Antti Raanta.
Rick Nash and J.T. Miller added late goals for the Rangers, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Preds finished the game off.
Fisher logged one shot on goal and three hits in 16:47 of ice time during his first game action since being injured on Dec. 1. The centerman also won 10 of his 17 face-offs on the night.
“He was really good,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Fisher. “We played him in a lot of different situations and rolled the bench, got a lot of minutes out of everyone tonight, but Mike looked really good. It’s nice to have him back in there. He really provides a steadiness to our lineup, a good balance and he takes on a lot of different roles.”
The Preds are right back at it Tuesday night in St. Louis, before heading to Dallas in another Central Division showdown, and Nashville is hoping to utilize a victory against a strong Rangers team to their advantage.
“We need to string them together here and put some wins together in a row,” Laviolette said. “We certainly realize what we have ahead of us and the difficulty of our schedule. We have to build off of this, take the confidence from this game and move on… We wake up in the morning and [tonight’s win will] be old news. We’ve got to focus on the job at hand.”
If at First You Don’t Succeed:
Filip Forsberg thought he had scored his second goal of the night, but a coach’s challenge from New York Head Coach Alain Vigneault went in the Rangers favor early in the third period, keeping the Nashville lead at just one goal.
As Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette acknowledged after the game, a result like that can be deflating. Instead, the Preds went out and got it right back. And then they got another. And another.
“We talked about it on the bench before it even happened that the next shift was a big one,” Laviolette said of the call. “Just to come back and press and push; they had to go to Toronto on the high stick too, [but it went back to Craig Smith] again, so it was good to get rewarded.”
Goals from Smith, Ryan Ellis and James Neal all within four minutes of each other proved to be too much for the Rangers to handle down the stretch, the ultimate difference in the contest.
“We started off the third really good and got that disallowed, but after that we just kept going for it. I think that’s the biggest thing you have to do.”
Gif of the Game:
In a play that won’t go into the record books as a goal due to a goaltender interference call, Filip Forsberg displays an incredible individual effort to cut behind the Rangers net and bank the puck into the cage.
Filip Forsberg on scoring a goal on fellow Swede, Henrik Lundqvist:
“He’s really big back home, and it was a big goal to get the team on the board as well. That’ll be one I remember.”
With three assists, Mike Ribeiro extended his point streak to four games. Ribeiro now has seven helpers in his last four games.
The Preds face the Blues in St. Louis on Tuesday night in the second half of a back-to-back set, before taking on the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars in Texas on New Year’s Eve. Nashville will then finish off their three-game road trip in Carolina on Jan. 2 before returning home.
Goals came from all areas of the ice on Monday, with five of them belonging to the Predators.
Infographic: Preds Lasso Rangers