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Zuccarello, Brassard help Rangers win in Yandle’s debut

NEW YORK (AP) — Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard both had two assists, and the New York Rangers rebounded from a rare regulation loss and sent the NHL-leading Nashville Predators to their season-worst third straight defeat, 4-1 on Monday night.

Marc Staal, Chris Kreider, Dominic Moore and Rick Nash had goals for the Rangers to make it a successful debut for All-Star defenseman Keith Yandle, acquired Sunday from Arizona. Cam Talbot stopped 25 shots to improve to 9-2-2 in place of injured No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who turned 33 on Monday.

The Rangers, 12-2-2 in their past 16 games, moved into a tie with the rival Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division. New York’s 4-2 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday was its first in regulation since falling 3-2 at Nashville on Feb. 7.

Zuccarello had a big game shortly after the Rangers announced he agreed to a four-year contract extension.

Matt Cullen scored for the Predators in the second period. Pekka Rinne made 36 saves but dropped his third straight decision, including a pair of home losses.

The Rangers jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Nashville turned over the puck in the New York zone.

Zuccarello sent a cross-zone feed in the Predators end to Staal, who skated into the left circle and snapped a shot past Rinne at 6:36 for the defenseman’s fifth goal.

New York nearly doubled its lead with 4:57 left, shortly after Zuccarello finished serving a high-sticking penalty, but Nash was denied on his breakaway attempt by Rinne. The Rangers wrapped up the period with a 12-5 edge in shots.

They did get that 2-0 lead 4:15 into the second when Zuccarello and Brassard teamed up for a second time to set up Kreider’s 17th goal. Brassard and Zuccarello had worked the puck in the right corner, and Zuccarello spotted Kreider charging from the bench on a line change straight for the net.

Zuccarello found him with a perfect pass for a slam shot past Rinne.

Nashville found its legs in the second half of the second period and began to put more pressure and shots on Talbot. The Predators cashed in with 4:36 left on Cullen’s seventh goal and second in two games. From Talbot’s right, Taylor Beck sent a behind-the-back pass from his knees across the crease to Cullen for the quick shot. Cullen has seven points in six games.

Moore swept in a rebound of Dan Girardi’s point shot for his eighth goal at 5:51 of the third, and Nash iced it with an empty-net goal — his 38th overall — with 44 seconds left.

Talbot stood tall the rest of the way, drawing chants of “Tal-bot! Tal-bot!” from the Madison Square Garden crowd.

NOTES: Rangers forward James Sheppard, acquired in a trade with San Jose on Sunday, and D Matt Hunwick both took part in pregame warmups but were healthy scratches. … New York RW Jesper Fast returned after missing 11 games because of a right knee injury sustained Feb. 7 at Nashville. … Predators D Seth Jones was struck in the face with a puck in the second period, and then blocked another drive before he was able to skate gingerly off the ice. He returned to the game. … Beck had been scratched in three straight games and four of five.

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