NASHVILLE----It was the type of game, according to coach John Tortorella, that the Rangers, who missed the playoffs by a point, lost last year.
"Last game of a long road trip, you win a big game prior and you kind of let this one go by," said Tortorella after the weary Rangers tied the Predators late and won 2-1 in their first shootout of the year."Those are the points that kill you at the end of the year when you don't get in," said Tortorella. "I felt a little bit last year that we gave in in these types of games. A good gut check. It's early in the year, but come March and April, these are huge points."
Down 1-0 since the 5:10 mark of the first period, Ryan Callahan scored to tie the game with 6:56 left in regulation, firing from the slot toward a scramble. Erik Christensen then deked Pekka Rinne to tally the lone goal in the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist stopped all three Predators shootout attempts to lift the Rangers (14-10-1) to their second consecutive win on this three-game road trip.
With Marian Gaborik back at the hotel with the flu and Derek Boogaard nursing a sore shoulder, the Rangers survived by rotating 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
"We kept working and working and finally tied the game," said Lundqvist, who thwarted Cal O' Reilly with his left pad, Marcel Goc with his right and Martin Erat with his glove. "I tried to be patient and it worked out good today."
Christensen, the first Rangers shooter, asked goaltender Martin Biron on the bench how to approach Pekka Rinne, and was told to try to get him down and moving side to side. The center drew him left with his backhand, went forehand, slid the puck in and crashed into the post. "That's from the momentum I'm trying to create. You have to sell it."
But it wouldn't have gotten that far without Callahan, whose shot deflected off defenseman Francis Bouillon and past Rinne. Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Dubinsky assisted. It was his seventh goal of the season.
The shorthanded Rangers were playing their ninth game in 14 days and fell behind 1-0 early in the first. Colin Wilson, the son of former Ranger Carey, put the Predators ahead, when Dan Girardi couldn’t control the bouncing puck near the left circle. That lead held up until the third. Lundqvist made 28 saves in regulation and a big one on Shane O'Brien in overtime.
For the Predators, it was somewhat predictable. For the sixth time in nine home games, and third in a row at Bridgestone Arena, the teams went into overtime. It was the fourth this season for the Rangers, who are 3-1.
After Wilson’s goal, Tortorella, watching the Preds win the battles along the boards and leading in shots 6-2, was changing combinations almost every shift, although defenseman Michal Rozsival, returning from a strained shoulder after missing nine games, played 22: 22 and took minutes from Matt Gilroy (5:12).
With 11:08 left in the first and Christensen in the crease, the center turned his skate to redirect the puck past Rinne, but the goal was immediately waved off. "I kicked it in, you're always hoping that they don't see it," confessed Christensen.
The Rangers were 0 for 4 on the power play for the night. But Callahan and Christensen scored when it counted.