Preds dump Rangers 5-2

Monday, March 5, 2001 at 1:00am

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz took a retro approach of sorts and came up with a prolific scoring combination.

A reuniting of the line of Randy Robitaille, Cliff Ronning and Patric Kjellberg lit up the scoreboard for the Nashville Predators Sunday afternoon in a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers.

A crowd of 16,503 fans watched as Robitaille and Ronning each scored a pair of goals. Robitaille added a pair of assists and Ronning had one. Kjellberg failed to find the back of the net but he collected three assists. All three earned star of the game awards for their efforts, with Ronning scoring both of his goals in the second period and Robitaille scoring his two in the third. The fifth goal was scored by Denis Arkhipov who tied the game in the second period at 2-2.

"We played solid from our goaltending on out," said Ronning who threw his stick eight rows into the stands after skating back on the ice as the second star of the game. "We're not scoring the first goal at home, but once we score a goal it's instant confidence for us

."This is what it is supposed to be like at home ... a good time with the fans. We played good "D" early and we just clicked.

"Robitaille, Ronning and Kjellberg started out as a line this season. But Robitaille's defensive defeciencies cost him his position on the top line and eventually he lost a spot on the Predators roster.

He was placed on waivers and when no one claimed him he joined the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League. In 19 games he had 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists) before being recalled March 1.Ronning extended his points streak to seven games with two goals and six assists. He praised Robitaille for his offensive explosion

."Randy has come out working hard," Ronning said. "He is going out playing ... that's it. He's not thinking about anything else.

"He is a good hockey player. He sees the ice very well. He skates well and he makes good passes. He knows if he is in the hole, I'm going to pass it to him. That's what happened a couple of times in this game.

"Robitaille, who was thought by many to be through as a Predators player after his demotion, is making the most of his second chance. He is providing a scoring surge the Predators need badly if they are to continue to have any hopes for a playoff spot. In two games he has three goals, two of them on power plays, and three assists.

"I have a little more confidence," Robitaille said. "I went down to Milwaukee and got put in all kinds of situations. I played a ton and got my offensive awareness back

"It's good to come back and help the team win some games down the stretch. We're just trying to stay as strong as we can defensively and wait for our chances.

"From a defensive standpoint the Predators got a strong effort from goaltender Mike Dunham who turned back 27-of-29 shots by the Rangers. It was a solid comeback after giving up four goals Thursday in a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"Mike has some big saves," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. "He really stepped in and gave us a chance to pull away a little bit

"I thought a couple of keys early in the game were when they scored their first goal and we responded really quickly. They got the second goal and we responded quickly. We sort of picked it up and fed off of Mike's making a couple of big saves. I thought we played much better as the game went on. We were very determined, obivously, in a lot of areas.

" The season is down to 15 games as the Predators hit the road for five games beginning Monday night in Phoenix before returning home March 17. The Predators have played well on the road with a 15-13-1-2 worksheet.

"Every game is big now and we seem to play better when it is that way," Ronning said. "We have to go out and play as a team. Our goalie has been unbelievable all year long. We know he is going to be there.

"New York coach Ron Low thought the performance was one of the lowest moments for his team this season

"This was the first time I thought we had a lot of players who didn't play well," said Low who was without Theo Fleury, one of the Rangers top scorers who voluntarily went to a rehab clinic last week. "I would have hoped that wouldn't be the case in a game like this where we had a chance to win it

"Every time we scored a goal, we gave one up right away. And that's a bad sign. I thought this was the worst game we have played in a long time.

"We didn't play very well in our own zone. We have to play solid in our own zone. If we don't we get killed."

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