Predators want to stay aggressive against Rangers

Coaches rarely have a tough time finding something that needs improvement, even after victories. They might say something like, "That was a good win, but we need to work on this or that."

If Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette had a difficult time finding a "but" line Thursday night, there was a good reason. Simply put, Nashville might have played its most complete game of the season in a 5-0 rout of the Los Angeles Kings.

Every box was checked, from early energy to a 3-0 first-period lead to shutdown goaltending and steady pressure from opening puck drop to final horn.

Now the Predators will try to do it again Saturday night when they close a stretch of eight home dates in nine games against the New York Rangers.

"Tonight was a great game," Laviolette said Thursday night. "It was one of our best 60-minute efforts in a while. It certainly is nice to have everyone back in there."

That this performance came with all of Nashville's core players healthy for the first time this season only added fuel to the notion this team is better than the one that won the Western Conference title last spring.

Filip Forsberg returned from an 11-game absence with an upper-body injury and scored in the first period, perhaps auguring another one of his strong Februarys. He scored 12 goals in the second month two years ago, then 11 last February, including 10 in the last five games of the month.

"It was a big win for the team, and I was more than happy to help in that way," Forsberg said. "I've been fortunate to skate through the whole injury. Obviously, it was a little different in the game. I had to catch my breath a couple of times, but everything else felt good."

The Predators (30-12-7) also got three assists from center Ryan Johansen in one of his most assertive efforts of the season and 19 saves from Pekka Rinne in his fifth shutout of the season.

Meanwhile, New York (25-21-5) comes into town limping along the path to early tee times in April. Its listless 4-0 loss Thursday night at home to Toronto was its fourth in five games, a stretch in which it has allowed an unsightly 22 goals.

It was an especially wretched night for goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who lasted only 13 shots and just over 23 minutes before being pulled for Ondrej Pavelec after Zach Hyman gave the Maple Leafs a four-goal advantage.

The Rangers sit 10th in the Eastern Conference, two spots out of the final wild-card berth.

"We just couldn't get it done," Lundqvist said. "We played a skilled team and they just made us pay on a few chances they had. My last two starts, I have to be better. I know that; that's the simple answer. A couple of breakdowns, it's my job to clean that up."

It was New York's first game after the All-Star break, which might have contributed to the sloppy outing. But with a couple of teams to climb over and just 31 games remaining, the Rangers can't afford many more of those.

"We have to go back to work and focus on the next game and get those two points," Rangers forward Rick Nash said.

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