In the battle of mediocrity, one team had to emerge as the winner. That team was the Nashville Predators, who snapped their five game winless streak Tuesday night.
Nashville came out victorious mainly because of their fourth line, consisting of Paul Gaustad centering Rich Clune and Matt Hendricks. Clune, Hendricks and Gaustad combined for seven points, with Gaustad leading the team in scoring with a goal and two assists.
Carter Hutton improved to 5-3-1 after stopping twenty-eight shots in his first start in a month (11/10 @ New Jersey).
At 13:45 and 17:52 in the first period, respectively, Nick Spaling and Clune allowed the Predators to head to the first intermission with a two goal lead. Predator-killer Rick Nash scored the New York Rangers' only goal at 6:38, also scoring his 600th career point in the process. But Nashville responded back with two of their own from Hendricks and Gaustad, who sealed the 4-1 victory with the empty netter.
The Clune-Gaustad-Hendricks line shocked a lot of viewers, including myself. It was they who rose to the occassion, not the first, second or third line (well, the Bourque-Legwand-Spaling line played well, but didn't produce offensively as a unit). Their gritty style was able to overcome prettiness and earn their team a victory.
One thing head coach Barry Trotz changed at defense was the playing time of Seth Jones. Against the Rangers, Jones played 9:29, an abnormally low amount of time on ice for the rookie. Jones' minutes were the least among his counterparts; Weber (30:25), Josi (29:20), Bartley (19:02), Klein (18:26) and Ellis (11:28).
Carter Hutton certainly did play well, but it was the skaters in front of him who played a complete game. With the exception of a few plays, including Nash's goal cutting through the crease, the Rangers were held back offensively. Big props to the Predators for bouncing back against a skilled New York squad.
NSH – 1-0 | Nick Spaling – Hornqvist and Legwand at 13:45 in the 1st
NSH – 2-0 | Rich Clune – Hendricks and Gaustad at 17:52 in the 1st
NYR – 2-1 | Rick Nash – Richards and Brassard at 6:38 in the 2nd
NSH – 3-1 | Matt Hendricks – Clune and Gaustad at 2:38 in the 3rd
NSH – 4-1 | EN Paul Gaustad – Legwand and Josi at 18:54 in the 3rd
NSH: Carter Hutton (W) – 28 saves on 29 shots; played 60:00
NYR: Henrik Lundqvist (L) – 22 saves on 25 shots; played 59:30
My Three Stars
1. Matt Hendricks: Goal and Assist
2. Paul Gaustad: Goal and 2 Assists
3. Rich Clune: Goal and Assist
Line Up Report
Predators scratches: Smith and Ekholm
Predators starters: Nystrom, Fisher, Stalberg, Weber, Josi and Hutton
Rangers scratches: Pyatt, Staal and Pouliot
Rangers starters: Richards, Boyle, Callahan, Girardi, McDonagh and Lundqvist