NEW YORK – Dan Ellis showed no signs of rust in a frenetic third period.
Playing for only the second time in nine games, Elllis made 37 saves – including 18 in the final 20 minutes – and protected the Nashville Predators’ 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Coming off a disappointing 4-3 loss Tuesday at the New York Islanders, who scored the tying power-play goal with 11.4 seconds left in regulation, the Predators bounced back quickly and snapped a five-game losing streak on the road (0-4-1).
“It was huge. Really big, especially coming back to back,” Predators captain Jason Arnott said. “Guys really worked hard and everybody contributed. We got unbelievable goaltending at the end and we stayed out of the penalty box for most of the third period. That was key for us.”
Especially when a lack of discipline by Rangers rookie defenceman Michael Del Zotto created the power play that produced Colin Wilson’s winning goal in the second period.
Wilson scored in the closing seconds of an extended advantage and helped Ellis win for the first time since Jan. 15 at Calgary. He was 0-3 since then.
“It’s always important to continue to prove yourself when people have doubts about your abilities,” said Ellis, who shares goaltending duties with Pekka Rinne. “You have to go out there and prove that you can play. This was an important game for us. You have to put personal things aside and dig deep for the boys.”
Jordin Tootoo also scored for the Predators, 3-6-2 in their past 11 overall.
This game was played in front of a surprisingly large crowd of 13,128 at Madison Square Garden despite a daylong blizzard. The Rangers had sold out 187 consecutive home games since Oct. 31, 2005.
The only goal Ellis allowed was a power-play tally by Vinny Prospal in the second. The Rangers’ already struggling offence was dealt another blow when leading scorer Marian Gaborik was forced to sit out because of a cut on his right leg sustained Tuesday in practice when he made contact with goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s skate.
Gaborik is day to day, and the Rangers hope the Slovak Olympian will play Friday at Pittsburgh. New York is 2-8 in its past 10 and has dropped below the playoff cutoff in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have scored three goals or fewer in all but one of those games.
The lack of offence spoiled Lundqvist’s 34-save performance, including several stops that thwarted breakaways.
“Again we generate chances, but we don’t score,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “I am tired of talking about chances. We’ve got to score.”
Wilson turned good fortune into the winning goal.
Rangers defenceman Michal Rozsival’s clearing attempt was knocked down by teammate Ryan Callahan, and the puck came to Wilson, who snapped in a shot from the bottom of the right circle at 16:10 for his second goal in his 12th NHL game – all this season.
The 19-year-old Del Zotto compounded a hooking call against him by complaining to the referee. The lack of discipline earned him an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Nashville took advantage after the Rangers had killed all but 24 seconds of the four-minute power play.
When Del Zotto returned to the bench, he got an earful from the angry Tortorella and spent the rest of the period at the far end.
“I just didn’t agree with the agree with the call,” Del Zotto said “It’s my own fault. I’ve got to control my own emotions there. I let them team down.”
“I don’t think I said anything too bad. Maybe I’ve got to learn how to keep my mouth shut. … It was a dumb penalty and it was one that could have been avoided, so he had every right giving it to me and putting me in my place.”
Del Zotto was back on the ice in the opening minute of the third.
“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.”
New York had gotten even at 9:48 when Prospal scored during the Rangers’ two-man advantage. Olli Jokinen, shortly after he made a deft play at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone, fired wide of the net. The puck caromed hard off the end boards and came to Prospal at the right post for a shot that struck Ellis and bounced in.
Nashville took a 1-0 lead with 2:15 remaining in the first when Kevin Klein’s shot from the point hit Tootoo and sailed past Lundqvist.
NOTES: Predators C Jerred Smithson didn’t play after blocking a shot with his foot in the second period. … Rangers D Corey Potter, recalled from Hartford (AHL) on Tuesday was in the lineup as a seventh defenceman. … The Predators have five wins and a tie at MSG since Jan. 31, 2000. This was their first visit since a 3-0 win on Oct. 18, 2006.