Predators' Ellis stops 37 shots as Rangers fall 2-1
|Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops a breakaway chance by Nashville veteran J.P. Dumont. Like his Predators counterpart, Dan Ellis, Lundqvist turned in a standout performance and finished with 34 saves.
• MORE PHOTOS
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Tortorella Postgame Remarks to Reporters
|MSG's Analysis with Micheletti and Maloney
|EXCLUSIVE VIDEO ON MSG.com
|Check Out More Rangers Postgame Video
• PHOTO GALLERY
• GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
With a huge winter storm raging outside, the Rangers faced off with the Nashville Predators inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night; and despite another strong outing by Henrik Lundqvist
, the Rangers were edged by a 2-1 final score.
Lundqvist finished with 34 saves, but he was bested by his counterpart Dan Ellis, who stopped 37 of 38 Rangers shots.
“It’s just painful to watch to see how we’re not scoring,” said Lundqvist. “Guys make a lot of good plays, but the puck just doesn’t want to go in.”
The Rangers were forced to play without their leading scorer, Marian Gaborik
. The talented Slovak sniper, who has a team-high 35 goals and 69 points -- including six goals in his last five games -- suffered a cut on his right thigh at practice on Tuesday when Lundqvist’s skate accidentally did the damage. Gaborik needed stitches to close the wound.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella said prior to the game that Gaborik’s thigh swelled up over night and that it was prudent not to play Gaborik against the Predators. Tortorella said he was hopeful Gaborik could play Friday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins.
Even without Gaborik in the lineup, the Rangers were able to generate many solid scoring chances, including great opportunities by Artem Anisimov
and Olli Jokinen in the final minutes of the game that were denied by Ellis.
“Obviously he’s one of the best offensive players in the world,” Rangers captain Chris Drury
said of Gaborik. “If you take him out of anyone’s lineup it’s going to hurt.”
A bad decision and an unfortunate bounce for the Rangers combined to help Nashville score the go-ahead goal late in the second period.
With the score tied at 1-1, just three minutes after Vinny Prospal
had pulled the Rangers even with a power-play goal, rookie Michael Del Zotto
was penalized for hooking, and then compounded that penalty when he was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with the referee.
The Rangers, though, calmly set about yet another terrific penalty kill -- they had stymied the Predators’ power play earlier in the game, as well -- and seemed on the verge of surviving both of Del Zotto’s penalties. Unfortunately misfortune struck before the second penalty was killed off, and the Rangers wound up trailing 2-1.
Lundqvist made a strong save on Shea Weber’s booming slap shot, and the rebound bounced into the slot. Michal Rozsival
was there for the Rangers and attempted to clear the puck out of the zone. However the puck instead struck teammate Ryan Callahan
less than 10 feet away and caromed right to Nashville’s Colin Wilson, who whipped a shot past a startled Lundqvist with 3:50 to play in the period.
“When you put yourself in those kinds of spots, those are the breaks that kind of go against you and seem to help you lose along the way,” said Drury.
Del Zotto, the 19 year-old rookie, left the penalty box and very slowly made his way to the bench where he was confronted by Tortorella. Though Del Zotto did not play the rest of the second period, Tortorella had him out on the ice to start the third period, and Del Zotto had an excellent scoring chance in the game’s final minute with Lundqvist pulled for an extra attacker.
“He’s one of our better players on the back end,” Tortorella said of Del Zotto. “We’re trying to win a hockey game, so certainly he’s going to go back out there. He’s learned a lot of lessons throughout the year.”
Prospal’s goal at 9:48 of the second came during a 5-on-3 power play. Prospal jammed a loose puck underneath Ellis after Jokinen did an excellent job keeping the puck in at the blueline on an attempted Nashville clear and then proceeded to fire a shot towards the net.
His 12th goal of the season was far from Prospal’s only contribution on Wednesday. Prospal led all players with nine shots on goal and he logged more than 21 minutes worth of important ice-time.
Nashville has scored the first goal of the game at 17:45 of the opening period. Defenseman Kevin Klein took a slap shot from the right point which was deflected in front by Jordin Tootoo and past Lundqvist, giving the Predators a 1-0 advantage.
There was little Lundqvist could do on either Nashville goal through the first two periods. Coming off his 41-save outing last Saturday against the Devils, Lundqvist was again very sharp against Nashville.
Lundqvist’s best moments came early in the second period when his teammates repeatedly turned the puck over in their own end of the ice. Two minutes into the second Tootoo broke in around a fallen Matt Gilroy
, but Lundqvist flashed a quick glove to deny him. A little more than a minute later Lundqvist made a huge right-pad save to stuff J.P. Dumont on a breakaway. Tootoo was victimized again moments later from in-close by Lundqvist.
“The odd-man rushes were just blown coverages that should be handled but weren’t,” said Tortorella.
With Gaborik sidelined, Tortorella decided to dress seven defensemen, inserting Corey Potter into the lineup after recalling the young blueliner from Hartford. Potter nearly scored with 6:20 to go in the first period when he followed up Erik Christensen
’s shot from the slot with a prime opportunity on the rebound. Ellis, though, made a scrambling save to deny Potter.
The Rangers will need a big bounce-back effort -- with or without Gaborik in the lineup – when they face the Penguins at Mellon Arena on Friday night.
|Three star selections