The Nashville Predators arrived in New York late Saturday still possessing a chance to turn their weekend into a productive one.
Waiting for the Predators are the New York Rangers, who have a chance to hinder another team’s wild-card hopes for the second time in as many nights.
The Predators will look to gain ground in the Western Conference wild-card race Sunday night when they begin a pivotal two-game road trip against the host Rangers.
Both teams will be completing back-to-back sets after playing at home Saturday. Nashville dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets, while the Rangers finished off a 6-0 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators (34-25-8, 76 points) squandered a pair of one-goal leads in suffering the potentially costly loss to the Jets (39-28-3, 81 points). Winnipeg resides in the second wild-card spot in the West, although Nashville has played three fewer games.
“Obviously, you’d like two (points), but you’ve got to take what you can get,” said Predators center Cody Glass, who opened the scoring 5:26 into the first period Saturday.
“We still have three games in hand. We need to string along a couple wins here and really just come together.”
The Predators might have to come together without captain Roman Josi, who missed the final two periods and overtime of Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Josi leads the team in assists (41) and points (59).
“He’s one of the best defensemen in the league,” Glass said. “So there’s new opportunity for some guys, good spots for guys to get better in different situations and build off our game going into the final stretch.”
The Rangers (40-19-10, 90 points) continued to thrive against contenders Saturday. Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and captain Jacob Trouba scored in a span of fewer than five minutes in the second period to pace New York.
Goalie Igor Shesterkin recorded 33 saves in the shutout for the Rangers, who scored their six goals on just 24 shots.
“I mean, you win 6-0, I think it says a lot of good things,” said Patrick Kane, who set up two goals for his first multi-assist game since being acquired by the Rangers from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28.
“Igor maybe hid some of our mistakes a little bit, but it was a good team effort.”
Coach Gerard Gallant also credited Shesterkin for keeping the Rangers afloat before their offensive surge.
“They controlled the first period a little bit, but we took advantage of our chances,” Gallant said. “Igor made some good saves, probably frustrated them a little bit, and we buried our chances. That was the difference in the game.”
The win was the third straight for the Rangers, who defeated the Washington Capitals before sweeping a home-and-home series with the Penguins (34-25-10, 78 points). New York has scored 15 goals during its win streak.
After facing the Predators, the Rangers will play a home-and-home series with the Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday and Thursday before visiting the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
–Field Level Media