This is what we were all waiting for; a game where the Nashville Predators would put all of their hard work into putting the goals on the scoreboard, and did they ever do that against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
The Predators got their second win of the season to move to 2-3-0 after a 4-1 win over the Stanley Cup hopeful New York Rangers. Another game that could’ve turned sideways really fast on the Predators, but they held strong to hold the Rangers off.
It marks the first time in 2023-24 that the Predators reach four goals in a game, and all of those chances finally broke their way, including chasing Igor Shesterkin out of the game in the 2nd period.
Let’s get to it; my three standout players from the Predators statement win at Madison Square Garden.
Smith Silences the Critics, Scores Two Goals in the 1st Period
How’s this for a breakout game? Cole Smith had four career NHL goals coming into Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, and managed to do half of that production in one period.
Smith got his first goal with just plain hard work close in on the net. He found a fluttering rebound behind Shesterkin and cleaned up the dirty laundry. Cash it in.
Soon thereafter, Smith took a borderline interference penalty that clearly he wasn’t pleased with the official on. Quickly after exiting the box, Smith got the puck for a one-one-one breakaway and beat Shesterkin again. This time a more highlight reel worthy goal.
You just simply can’t make this stuff up. In a span of around five minutes of game time, Smith scores half of his previous NHL goal total.
Now I will say that coming right out of the penalty box with a puck coming right to you is pretty fortunate, but all the credit goes to Smith burying the chance. He’s clearly worked on his goal finishing abilities, and it’s no easy feat beating Shesterkin one-one-one.
McDonagh Puts on Defensive Masterpiece Against Former Team
The defensive work of Ryan McDonagh in this game was just simply masterful. Uses his big frame to box out opponents, blocking a couple big shots, and just being there in position to keep it on the perimeter.
McDonagh sometimes just gets overlooked in his reliable defensive play, but it was on full display here. The Rangers had trouble finding high danger chances throughout the game until they finally broke through with a goal in a 5-on-3 power play situation.
McDonagh and Alexandre Carrier had the most time on ice of any Predators defensive pairing in this game, and they allowed the lowest Expected Goals Against total at just 0.124.
Not a pairing you expected to hear about, but McDonagh and Carrier also led all Predators skaters in time on ice in this game. The Predators really lean on McDonagh’s on ice leadership, just like Ryan O’Reilly among the forwards.
Outstanding defensive game from McDonagh in this one against a potent Rangers offense that was held to 1-for-4 on the power play, but limited with just the 5-on-4 advantage.
Forsberg Finally Breaks his Goal Drought
We knew it had to be coming for Filip Forsberg. He was leading the team in shots on goal and was a focal point on the Predators not being able to cap off their scoring opportunities in the first four games.
Forsberg had just gotten loose for a shot prior that Shesterkin rather easily gobbled up. You saw the camera pan to Forsberg on the bench and what appeared to be him critiquing his shot choice.
Not long after that, Forsberg went with the flashy slapshot to absolutely laser one past Shesterkin. One of the world’s best goalies literally had no chance at stopping this one.
This marks Forsberg’s first goal since January 26, 2023 and just his sixth goal since the calendar flipped to 2023.
The puck control by Forsberg while he was coming into the zone was a work of art, and then to find his spot and blast it like he did was just a friendly reminder that this guy still has all of the talent in the world to be elite.
The coolest part about this whole thing wasn’t even the goal, but the pure joy and satisfaction Forsberg had on the bench. He needed to get that one off his chest. After coming back from a concussion, how can you not be ecstatic for this guy?
Forsberg now has five points through the first five games of 2023-24.
Other Game Notes
It’s becoming so clear how much Ryan O’Reilly is a mentor and leader on the ice. Like a coach suiting up and playing the game with his players.
You could see throughout the game against the Rangers that O’Reilly was pumping up his teammates, staying engaged and staying locked in. He scored his second goal of his Predators career, a power play goal, on a beautiful feed from Luke Evangelista in the 2nd period to put Nashville up 3-0.
A refreshing bounce back game for Juuse Saros. He saw the puck much better, but was also protected much better by the defense in front of him. His lone goal surrenders comes on a 5-on-3, but I will say he was fortunate not to give up a second goal on a shot from Artemi Panarin that had him beat, but hit the crossbar and deflected out of danger.
Saros is now 2-3-0 on the season with a .901 save percentage and a 2.85 GAA.
Finally, some bad news on the injury front as Cody Glass leaves early in the game with a lower body injury. It’s unclear until an update comes on Friday of how long Glass will be out for. It forced the Predators to skate with 11 forwards, and move Colton Sissons back to center.
Next up the Nashville Predators come back home to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night for a 7 P.M. local puck drop.