The New York Rangers and Nashville Predators share the distinction of playing under new coaches, a time when growing pains often are expected. The Rangers, so far, seem to have escaped them.
The Rangers are off to a 2-1-0 start, largely thanks to the early performance of Chris Kreider, who has scored in all three games. Kreider can tie a team record for the longest streak to begin a season on Thursday night against the visiting Predators.
Kreider also opened the 2016-17 and 2021-22 seasons by scoring in the first three games. If he scores again Thursday, Kreider will match the record set by Rick Nash in 2014-15 and equaled by Mika Zibanejad in 2017-18.
Kreider has spent the first three games on a line with Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko, and the trio accounted for New York’s first goal when the Rangers earned a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes in their home opener on Monday.
“To me, it’s been a really good line, a positive line,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I do agree on [Kreider]. He’s been a noticeable, impactful player for us.”
Kreider scored his fourth goal of the season in the first period after the Rangers created a defensive zone turnover, and his goal came before the Rangers killed off a 5-on-3 power play at the end of the period. Vincent Trocheck scored the tiebreaking goal on a deflection during a power play in the third as the Rangers improved defensively, highlighting the win when goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped Jason Zucker on a penalty shot to protect the one-goal lead.
“I think that you’re gonna have to figure out how to win a lot of different ways,” Laviolette said. “Tonight, for me, it was a good test. I was proud of our guys and the way we went out and took charge in the third.”
Nashville heads to New York attempting to rebound from its worst showing of the early going under new coach Andrew Brunette. The Predators dropped their second straight — and third game in four on the season — when they allowed four goals in the opening period of Tuesday’s 6-1 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
Tommy Novak scored a power-play goal early in the second after Nashville fell behind by four goals and could not score in a 15-shot opening period. Predators goaltender Juuse Saros allowed four goals on 11 shots before being replaced by Kevin Lankinen to start the second period.
Nashville took 43 shots on goal Tuesday and has taken at least 30 in each game so far, which is among the reasons Brunette was feeling pleased with the effort in a lopsided loss.
“I really liked our will, our effort,” Brunette said. “It just has to be a little bit smarter, a little bit of understanding where in parts of the game that you really have to make sure you take care of business in certain areas, and we didn’t, and they made us pay.”
The teams have split the season series in each of the past five full seasons. In the most recent game between the two, New York won 7-0 on March 19 at home when defenseman K’Andre Miller scored twice and collected two assists during a six-goal opening period.