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Hayes Line Leads the Way in Win Over Nashville

Trio combines for six points, including 2 goals from Miller, 3 assists for Hayes

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

The Kevin Hayes line combined for six points in the Rangers' 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Nashville Predators Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

The win was the Rangers' third straight on this current four-game homestand, and the fourth consecutive victory overall.

J.T. Miller had two goals and Kevin Hayes had three assists, while Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for his 25th victory of the year.

"I think we all complement each other," said Hayes, who tied a career-high in assists in one game. "I like to pass and clearly those two guys like to score. Grabs - they're both having great years and scoring at will right now so I'm just trying to find them and they try to get it in the zone and just go from there."

Video: NSH@NYR: Grabner roofs Hayes' dish from in close

After New York fell behind 2-0 on goals by Cody McLeod in the first and a power play goal by Calle Jarnkrok in the second, the Hayes line went to work, starting with a tally by Michael Grabner off a pretty feed in tight by Hayes for Grabner's team-leading 26th goal of the season at 8:12 of the middle period.

Miller's first goal came late in the second period off an even prettier feed from Hayes, who carried the puck into Nashville's end to the hashmarks before sliding a no-look pass to Miller. The winger fired off the pass for his 17th of the season to tie the game, 2-2.

"I pretty much know he's passing it. He's a passer," Miller said. "He's really good at looking the d-man off. That was a pretty awesome pass. It went right through the d-man's skates I think. As soon as he got it over the blueline I pretty much put myself in a shooting position because I know there's a good chance of it coming over."

Video: NSH@NYR: Miller one-times Hayes' feed past Saros

Chris Kreider would give the Rangers their first lead of the night when he redirected a Mats Zuccarello shot/pass from the half boards over Juuse Saros for his career-high 22nd goal of the season.

Miller would add his second of the night with four minutes to go to give the Rangers some insurance. The goal - his 18th of the season - gave Miller 44 points on the season, a new career-high.

Nashville would add a third goal with 2:01 left on a power play goal by Roman Josi.

The success of the Hayes line has some, including captain Ryan McDonagh, remember back to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final run that was propelled in large part to head coach Alain Vigneault's ability to roll four lines consistently in different situations.

"You talk about depth up front. We haven't had that skill all the way through our lineup and speed since our Cup run," McDonagh said of the trio. "That was such a key to that run. They're playing really well and they're just going about their business too, which is good."

A homestand that began with many question marks as to why the Rangers struggled at home for stretches of the season is now nearly complete, with just one game separating New York from a perfect four-game stretch at The Garden. 

The success has been there, but Lundqvist said it's no time to get complacent.

"You've got to work on it every game," Lundqvist said. "You can't just [say] "OK now we've won three now we can relax." No, you've got to keep pushing yourself. I still believe we can play even better. Moving forward it's an opportunity for us to work on our game and improve a lot of different things, starting with myself. There's things you can continue to work on, but it starts with winning and you gain that confidence and its more fun to play at home and feel that support from your fans as well. It's been a good week so far and we have to keep going."

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