Playing for only the second time in nine games, Dan Elllis was terrific between the pipes, making 37 saves – including stopping 18 shots in the third period — and protected the Nashville Predators’ 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.  Coming off of a disappointing 4-3 shootout loss just a night before in Long Island against 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.  Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto created the four-minute power play that produced rookie Colin Wilson’s go-ahead goal in the second period.  Wilson’s goal was created from a failed clearing attempt by Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival.  Rozsival attempted to lift the puck up and out of the Ranger’s defensive zone, but it deflected off of teammate Ryan Callahan.  The puck dropped right in front of Wilson, who snapped in a shot from the bottom of the right circle at 16:10 for his second career goal in his 12th career NHL game — all this season

The 19-year-old Del Zotto appended 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 livid head coach John Tortorella and spent the rest of the period at the far end of the bench.

“I just didn’t 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 to start the third period.

“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.”

Wilson’s eventual game-winner helped Ellis win for the first time since January 15 at Calgary.  He had lost 3 starts since then.  Jordin Tootoo opened the scoring for the Predators with 2:15 remaining in the first, now 3-6-2 in their past 11 overall.  The only goal Ellis allowed was a tally by Vinny Prospal in the second on a two-man advantage, his twelfth goal on the year, which tied the game at 1-1. Olli Jokinen, shortly after he made a sharp 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 went in.

The Rangers’ already-struggling offense 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 currently listed as day-to-day, and the Rangers are guardedly optimistic the Slovak Olympian will play Friday in Pittsburgh. Although the third period did not have any scoring, the Blueshirts registered 18 shots on goal, about ten of which came in the final minutes.  But Dan Ellis shut them down, and this is a spot where the Rangers miss a player like Gaborik, who has a reputation of goals in the clutch.  Unfortunately, no one stepped up and filled Gaborik’s role tonight. The lack of offense spoiled Henrik Lundqvist’s brilliant 34-save performance, including several huge stops on breakaways.

King Henrik had to bail out the atrocious defense five times (five!) in just the first few minutes of the second period alone. That period may have been the most careless hockey I have seen from this team all season long.  During this stretch, Torts could be seen behind the bench with his head buried in his hands as his frustration continued to build.  Lundqvist wore a cape and played Superman again Wednesday night, which is a recurring theme.  He makes unbelievable saves and does everything he can to keep the Rangers in the game.  Most of his teammates do not return the favor, giving him very limited help in front of his net and no offensive support whatsoever. The defense does not consistently clear the front of the net of loose pucks, and players were constantly allowed to crash King Henrik in his crease.  As I said before, Sather needs to add a defenseman that excels in the defensive areas of the game; someone who can clear the front of the net and bring a defensive element to this team.

Ellis had a solid performance in net for Nashville, but the Rangers have no excuse for scoring just once on 38 shots.

“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.”

I like what I am seeing from newly-acquired center Olli Jokinen. Keep in mind it is only his fourth game with the team.  Usually, most players on a new team keep quiet and let others lead.  Yet when Nashville took a timeout in the third period, Jokinen took charge of the Ranges bench. He spoke up and spelled out what he wanted and expected the players to do on their next shift.  I love that sort of stuff, especially when you’re on a new team but still have the courage to do it.

The Rangers next game will be against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on Friday night.  New York is 2-8 in its past 10 games, and as a result has dropped out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference during that stretch. The Rangers have scored three goals or fewer in all but one of those past ten games.