NEW YORK -- With a fierce blizzard battering the city Wednesday, the New York Rangers were buried by the Nashville Predators , who stormed out of Madison Square Garden with a 2-1 victory.
New York City was hit with nearly 2 feet of snow, but the game was played despite the poor conditions. The 13,128 fans who braved the elements were treated to 25 percent off food and beverages, but they were also treated to the Rangers' eighth loss in 10 games.
Jordin Tootoo and Colin Wilson scored for the Predators, and Dan Ellis made 37 saves to get the win, his first since Jan. 15. It was a nice bounce-back game for Nashville, which blew a one-goal lead in the final seconds against the New York Islanders on Tuesday before losing 4-3 in a shootout.
"It was huge, really big," captain Jason Arnott said of the victory, which snapped the Predators five-game road losing streak. "Especially coming in back-to-back (games) after giving up a point (Tuesday) night. Guys really worked hard, everybody contributed from both ends of the ice and we got unbelievable goaltending at the end."
The unbelievable goaltending was provided by Ellis, who was making his first start since Jan. 29. The 29-year-old has seen his playing time diminish during the past two seasons thanks to the play of starter Pekka Rinne, but he's done his best to play well when given an opportunity.
"I think it's always important to continue to prove yourself," Ellis said. "When people have doubts about your abilities, you have to go out there and prove that you can play. This was an important game for us tonight, and you have to put personal things aside and dig deep for the boys."
Ellis was at his best while the Predators (32-22-5, 69 points, seventh in the West) were clinging to a one-goal lead in the third period. He turned aside all 18 shots fired his way, including several in the final three minutes when the Rangers were in desperation mode.
The native of Saskatoon, Sask., looked sharp from the get-go despite the lack of playing time of late, but he confessed after the game that looks can be deceiving.
"Actually, (Olli) Jokinen's first shot I thought went in, so I'm like, "Oh, darn, maybe I'm not in the zone,'" said Ellis with a laugh, referring to a harmless-looking shot by Jokinen in the first period that hit the outside of the net. "But I got a feel as the first period went on. Anytime you sit for five or six games, you do lose a little bit of rhythm and little bit of flow to your game.
"I felt as the game went on, that one missing the net and not going in, really helped with confidence moving forward."
Vinny Prospal scored for the Rangers, who were without their biggest star. Marian Gaborik and his 35 goals were out of the lineup after the sniper suffered a leg laceration during practice Tuesday. Even without the NHL's fourth-leading goal-scorer, the Rangers offense still produced numerous quality scoring chances, but not enough of those chances turned into goals.
Rangers coach John Tortorella is growing frustrated by just that.
"Again, we generated some chances but we don't score," Tortorella said. "I am tired of talking about chances. We need to score."
Gaborik has been the driving force behind the Rangers offense all season. He has scored 23 percent of the team's goals, the highest percentage of anyone in the League. With the difference between winning and losing so slim against the Predators, it was clear he could've been the difference between earning two points and zero points.
"Obviously he's one of the best offensive players in the world, and taking him out of anybody's lineup, it's going to hurt," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "Certainly we're going to miss him for however long he is out."
The Rangers (26-7-7, 59 points, 10th in the East) are hoping Gaborik can return Friday, but if he doesn't, it means they will have to lean even harder on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Once again, he was stellar while losing a one-goal game as the offense sputtered. He made 34 saves and stopped three Predators breakaways, but he was done in by his defense on the game-winning goal.
With the Rangers killing a four-minute penalty to Michael Del Zotto (hooking, unsportsmanlike conduct), Michal Rozsival hit Ryan Callahan up high with a clearing attempt. The puck bounced right to the Predators' Wilson, who beat Lundqvist with a quick shot to make it with 3:50 left in the period.
"You make a good save, it hits our own guy, right to their stick and in the net," Lundqvist said of Wilson's goal. "The way the goal looked, that's how we feel. It just bounced the wrong way. It is a tough one."
Tortorella appeared upset with Del Zotto when he returned from the penalty box. His rookie defenseman picked up an extra minor penalty after using one too many magic words on his way to the penalty box, turning a two-minute penalty into a four-minute double minor.
Del Zotto wasn't benched permanently after Tortorella lit into him, and he was on the ice late in the third period when the Rangers were trying to force overtime.
"He is one of our better players," Tortorella said. "We are trying to win a hockey game. He is certainly going to go back out there. He is learning a lot of lessons along the way."