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Ira Podell, Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, October 19, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) - Tomas Vokoun's slow start has quickly become a distant memory.

After allowing 13 goals in Nashville's opening two losses, the Predators' goalie has roared back during an impressive three-game winning streak. His latest effort was a 38-save performance that produced his 17th NHL shutout and gave the Predators a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. "My job is to stop the puck," said Vokoun, who has turned away 91 of the past 93 he's faced. "Goalie is your most important player. When he is not stopping the puck, it's tough to win."

Scott Nichol had a goal and assist for his first points of the season as the Predators evened their record through six games. They are out of last place and ready to work their way toward a third straight playoff appearance.

"After the first three games we had to kind of question ourselves but we all knew we could reach another level as a team," said Scottie Upshall, who assisted on Jerred Smithson's second-period, power-play goal.

The Rangers outshot the Predators in every period but lost for the fourth time in five games.

Nichol gave Nashville a 2-0 lead midway through the second period and then helped set up Smithson's first of the season with 1:48 left in the frame. Jason Arnott scored his second goal in the first period for the Predators, who have won the first two legs of a three-game swing through the New York metropolitan area.

Nashville edged the Islanders 2-1 in a shootout on Monday and will face the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

"We played a solid two games in a row, and Vokie stood on his head for us," Arnott said. "That's what we needed. That's kind of road hockey. You just kind of muck it up, get the win and get out of the building."

Although they yielded only one power-play goal, the Rangers again took a slew of penalties. Nashville had seven man-advantage situations, including a 5-on-3 and two power plays that started in the final minute of one period and carried over.

New York coach Tom Renney was incensed Monday when the Devils had a 7-1 power-play advantage in the Rangers' 4-2 victory. The Rangers killed them all off, but didn't find the same success in the matchup with the Predators.

Nashville's lead grew to 3-0 when Smithson scored for the first time in 21 games, dating to March 14 of last season. The Predators are only looking ahead now.

That is a much easier task now that Vokoun is healthy and again on top of his game. He missed the Predators' first-round playoff loss against San Jose last season after developing blood clots.

"We dug ourselves a hole and we dug ourselves out of a hole," he said of their start. "You have to bounce back. If you can't do it, then you can't play this sport."

Earlier in the second period, Nichol banked the puck off the boards and retrieved it after getting around defenceman Marek Malik. Nichol skated out from the corner and cut in front before sliding a shot past defenceman Michal Rozsival and into the lower left corner of the net at 9:42.

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