Over these last couple years, I have been very fortunate to spend most of my time in Bridgestone Arena with the amazing fans of Smashville; however, this past Saturday I spent my afternoon around Rangers fans in Madison Square Garden. It’s definitely a different experience to walk along the streets of New York City in your Predators gold and get a “Go Preds!” or confused faces from pedestrians around me.
As soon as I walked into the arena, I knew I wasn’t in Nashville anymore. The whole atmosphere of the arena was completely strange to me, but in a good way. It was interesting to walk into a new arena, and see how they run the place. I was able to go down along the ice for warmups, but they blocked off certain areas along the glass for safety reasons. Once warmups ended, I went to my seats and it was game time in the Big Apple. The Rangers had some impressive computerized special effects to the team’s entrance before the start of every period. The video board transforms into a frozen block of ice, which then breaks apart depicting their logo before the Rangers return from their locker room.
To start the game off, the Predators were able to get five power play opportunities during the first period, but were unable to convert on all of them. Even though the Rangers fans around were not very happy with the penalties, they were pleased with the fact that the defenders and Lundqvist were able to have a solid penalty kill. With just 5:02 remaining in the first period, the Rangers were able to to take the 1-0 lead with a goal from Jesper Fast after Alexei Emelin dove for the puck giving Fast the breakaway chance. Rangers fans all jumped up around me as they chanted to their goal song, Slapshot. Unfortunately, Roman Josi got called for high-sticking against Pavel Buchnevich, which later resulted in Chris Kreider receiving a backhand pass from J.T. Miller and snapping home a wrist shot from close range for a power-play goal to make it 2-0 late in the first.
The Predators started off the period strong with a slapshot from Mattias Ekholm from between the circles to make it only a one-goal deficit with 18:12 remaining in the second. About six minutes into the second, however, Chris Kreider had the ability to get a breakaway opportunity. As Ekholm stopped him from scoring, he drew a slashing minor. After undressing Matt Irwin in the right faceoff circle, Kevin Hayes went top shelf past Juuse Saros to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead with 7:13 remaining in the second period. Former Predators prospect, Jimmy Vesey, got an assists on goal receiving his first point of the 2017-2018 season after 9 games played. Just three minutes after the Hayes goal, Roman Josi snapped a wrist shot from the faceoff circle that banked into the back of the net off Filip Forsberg late in the second period, giving Forsberg his 6th goal of the season.
To begin the third period, the Preds only needed one goal to bring the game into overtime and at least gain a point from the matinee game at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist made some incredible saves between the pipes to keep the Rangers on top for the remainder of the game. Towards the end of the third, the Predators were able to get a power play as one of their last chances to tie the game up; however, they were unsuccessful in converting. With an empty net and only 39 seconds remaining, Jimmy Vesey sends the puck the length of the ice to end the game and give the Rangers the victory.
My experience of being around Rangers fans in their territory was incredible. It definitely makes me want to continue going to other arenas and continue to see how other organizations handle their hockey games for their loyal fans. The fans and arena staff were nothing but respectful to even away fans coming in and raiding their turf, but the Predators will return home to Smashville on Tuesday, October 24 to face the Calgary Flames at 7:00 pm.