That's the way to start a road trip.
The Nashville Predators showed heart and resiliency on their way to a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. No, the body of work wasn't perfect for 60 minutes, but captain Roman Josi and the Preds did what they had to do to end a two-game losing streak.
Josi scored twice, Juuse Saros made a season-high 39 saves in net, and Mattias Ekholm - who began his day in Nashville recovering from illness - made it to New York in time to score what proved to be the game-winner.
"It was a really good effort," Ekholm said. "Guys we're battling hard out there, playing hard; maybe it wasn't the prettiest one, but this is the way it's going to go when you work hard. Kudos to everyone that stuck with it and really battled hard tonight."
Video: NSH@NYR: Grimaldi scores after misplay by Georgiev
Rocco Grimaldi gave the visitors the first lead of the night when he cut to the slot and went five-hole on Alexandar Georgiev for his fourth goal of the season. The score was even again quickly, however. Less than a minute later, Chris Kreider capitalized on a Nashville turnover and beat Juuse Saros to even the score after 20 minutes.
In the second - a period that saw the Preds and Rangers engage in a few scrums as the game became feisty - Nashville put the puck in the net twice, and the first came off the stick of the captain. Midway through the frame, Josi came streaking down the wing and sniped a shot into the twine to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage. Five minutes later, Ekholm put his club up by two.
Video: NSH@NYR: Josi uses Fox as screen to net wrist shot
After taking a penalty for cross-checking, Ekholm exited the box following a successful kill, and just seconds later, Nick Bonino lofted a pass to the Preds defenseman. After settling the puck, Ekholm drove to the net and went far side to put an exclamation point on the middle frame.
"It was just great because the shift before that, he's just giving it to guys he's working hard he's being a horse," Grimaldi said of Ekholm. "And unfortunately, they gave him a penalty, but I guess it worked out in our favor."
Video: NSH@NYR: Ekholm strikes off rush after Bonino's pass
Monday was quite a 15-hour day for Ekholm, who had missed the previous game due to illness. Instead of taking the morning skate on Monday in New York, Ekholm was making his way from Nashville to Manhattan after waking up at home in Tennessee.
The defenseman, who said he was laid up in bed for four days with a fever, made it to the city around midday, took a nap and headed to the rink to begin his game-day routine - at least the second half of it.
"It was a challenging warm-up, and then you've been in bed for four days, but felt like I could go," Ekholm said. "I tried it out, and if you look at my shifts, the shift length was probably really short tonight, and that was just what I was trying to do."
"He was really good - typical Ekky," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's just big and strong out there and played an aggressive game. He was really good. Glad to have him back."
The Predators were out shot by the Rangers in every period, including 13-9 in the third, and that's where Saros became the difference-maker, as he preserved the visitors' lead after the Rangers trimmed the Nashville advantage to 3-2 with 2:42 to play.
Josi recorded his second of the night on a 190-foot shot from the end boards and into the Rangers' empty net. Ryan Ellis followed suit with another empty-net tally with four seconds left in regulation.
Above all, it's what follows that's the most vital thing from a Predators team trying to reclaim a Wild Card spot. Nashville will be right back in action against the Islanders on Tuesday evening (at 6 p.m. CT).
"If we can play like we did the first 10 minutes tonight, I think we're going to do well tomorrow," Grimaldi said. "They're a fast team, and they've got a lot of grind of their game. They're pretty hot right now, so it's going to be a tough game tomorrow. We've got to get our rest in, get back to the plan and have a good game."
Video: Josi, Saros power Predators past Rangers
Mikael Granlund (lower-body, day-to-day) missed his second-straight game due to injury.
Matt Irwin was also scratched for the Preds, as Ekholm returned to the lineup after missing Saturday's game due to illness.
Nashville's four-game trip continues tomorrow night on Long Island as the Preds face the Islanders in the second half of a back-to-back in New York. After that, it's off to Ottawa and Boston before returning home to host Taylor Hall and the Arizona Coyotes.