While the Nashville Predators were matching their longest winning streak of the season Friday, the New York Rangers spent the evening holding on for a win that briefly gave them the most points in the Eastern Conference.
The red-hot teams get together Sunday night as the Predators seek a season-high fifth straight victory when they visit the Rangers.
The Predators are trying to complete the three-game New York metropolitan-area sweep after earning a 4-3 win at the New York Islanders on Thursday and following it up with a 3-2 win at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.
Against the Islanders, Nashville earned the win in the final seconds when Eeli Tolvanen scored with 11.5 seconds left. At New Jersey, Juuse Saros made 29 saves in his return from a two-game absence due to an undisclosed illness while Tolvanen and Roman Josi scored in the second period.
“The competitive nature of the group is at a high level,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “We have a lot of guys who are natural competitors, which is something we had talked about, and we find ways to win different games.
“If you take (Friday) in particular, we play in Long Island (Thursday) night, a heavy, hard, physical game, emotional game, win it, and we come in (to New Jersey), we’ve got two of our forwards that log big ice time, play a lot of key situations, a lot of key minutes. I just think when you look at the group that we’re a highly-competitive group.”
Nashville is on its second four-game winning streak of the season and is 15-6-1 in its past 22 games. The Predators picked up their latest win without leading scorer Matt Duchene, who was scratched with an upper-body injury.
Duchene leads Nashville with 13 goals, is third on the team with 25 points and is considered day-to-day.
The Rangers briefly vaulted over the Florida Panthers for the most points in the East when they survived a 2-1 road win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
New York bounced back from a 7-3 home loss to Colorado on Wednesday by getting a break in the final minute and a standout performance from Alexandar Georgiev, now the No. 1 goaltender until Igor Shesterkin returns from injured reserve.
Georgiev made 17 of his season-high 36 saves in the third period and the Rangers survived after Buffalo had the tying goal waved off due to an offsides call. The NHL subsequently ruled Saturday that the goal should have counted since replay evidence was inconclusive that the goal should have been nullified.
Since becoming the starter, Georgiev is 3-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage.
The survival act also prompted some concerns about the Rangers finishing games. They won for the 12th time in 14 games despite allowing over 35 shots on goal for the second straight contest.
“I think it’s been the theme all season, really, to play more complete games,” New York’s Mika Zibanejad said. “I think we’ve shown that to ourselves when we play our game, how good we can be and how effective we can be. And that’s our next step, that’s our next challenge.”
Zibanejad scored New York’s first goal to end a 14-game drought and Alexis Lafreniere also scored Friday. Both goals were set up by defenseman Adam Fox, whose seven multi-assist games lead NHL blueliners.
The Rangers are 8-4-0 in the past 12 meetings and notched a 3-1 win in Nashville on Oct. 21 when Lafreniere scored the tiebreaking goal.
–Field Level Media