Unlikely scorer Clune leads Predators over Rangers
NEW YORK — Nick Spaling and Rich Clune scored first-period goals, and seldom-used backup Carter Hutton made 28 saves as the Nashville Predators snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the New York Rangers 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Hutton (5-3-1) made his first start since Nov. 10 and his third appearance in that span as the Predators try to get by while Pekka Rinne (hip) is out. Marek Mazanec went 0-4-1 in the previous five games.
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Matt Hendricks made it 3-1 just 2:38 into the third, knocking in a loose puck from in front, with Clune earning an assist. Paul Gaustad scored an empty-net goal with 1:06 left and added two assists.
Rick Nash cut New York’s deficit in half in the second period and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 22 shots, but the Rangers fell to 0-2-1 on their nine-game homestand. They have dropped four straight at Madison Square Garden (0-3-1).
Despite a team meeting after their 4-1 loss to Washington on Sunday, several lineup changes and a call-up from the AHL, the Rangers came out flat in the first period and fell into a 2-0 hole. New York (15-16-1) added veteran forward Arron Asham to the lineup, but the Rangers still can’t find consistency to their game.
Nashville was hardly impressive or overly aggressive, but the Predators made the most of their chances and scored twice with only six shots.
Spaling made it 1-0 with 6:15 left, right after the Rangers briefly avoided falling behind on another scoring chance in front. Spaling delivered a hard hit on defenseman Ryan McDonagh and then was free in front to score his fifth of the season before McDonagh could get back in the play.
Another breakdown produced the Predators’ second goal 4:07 later. Hendricks raced the puck up right wing and flipped a perfect pass over the stick of Rangers forward Dominic Moore and onto Clune’s blade.
Clune, who had no points and 69 penalty minutes in 17 games this season, deftly shifted the puck from forehand to backhand and slid it past Lundqvist.
When the period ended, the Rangers were serenaded with boos as they trudged off to the dressing room.
New York enjoyed a better second period. Even though the Rangers were outshot 12-6, they scored the only goal.
Nash finished off a crisp three-way passing play that started with Derick Brassard moving the puck to his left to Brad Richards, who quickly found Nash down low. Nash cut right to left across the crease and tucked in his sixth of the season at 6:38.
Lundqvist was sharp in the second and snagged a rising drive by Matt Cullen as he stretched far left with his glove less than 5 minutes in. Lundqvist then denied Eric Nystrom on the doorstep with 5:23 left.
Brassard nearly tied it with 1:49 remaining in the second, but his hard drive struck a post behind Hutton.