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Predators score early, fade late in 4-2 loss to Rangers

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The New York Rangers played a gritty, hard-working game to knock off the Preds 4-2 in front of 16,241 at the Sommet Center. After taking a 2-1 lead into the 1st intermission, the Predators were outshot 26-11 the rest of the way, giving Nashville its first regulation loss on home ice since February 16, when Ottawa shut them out 2-0.

As befits two clubs that have trouble scoring, most of the goals in this game were the result of some unusual circumstances. New York opened the scoring with a puck that caromed off the end boards and slipped between Preds goalie Dan Ellis and the goalpost, dribbling into the crease where Sean Avery pounced on the easy tap-in. After Shea Weber tied the game with a fine wrist shot that Henrik Lundqvist only got a piece of, the Preds took a 2-1 lead when a crossing pass by J.P. Dumont was kicked into the Rangers net by Dan Girardi.  With Nashville heading into the locker room with the lead and a 10-6 shooting advantage, the Battle of New York (a Rangers blog) recapped the first period from the perspective of a Rangers fan: "Despicable."

Not to be outdone by Girardi, however, early in the second Nashville blueliner Dan Hamhuis deflected a puck off his skate and through Ellis to knot things back up at 2-2. Marc Staal put the Rangers ahead 3-2 late in the period, getting to a loose puck amidst a 7-player pileup around Ellis in the Nashville crease. Despite the clumsiness of the actual goals, New York generally dominated the 2nd, outshooting Nashville 16-5 on the period. In the absence of Jason Arnott, David Legwand was getting a huge workload by this point, having played 17:03 in the first two periods. Most of this was spent centering J.P. Dumont and Steve Sullivan, but with additional PK time and less time on the power play.

In the 3rd, both teams fought of PP chances before Nashville got another power play after Brandon Dubinsky took a high-sticking call. In what can only be a payback for my hubris of pointing out how many shorthanded goals New York gives up, the Rangers struck while a man down just a few seconds into Nashville's man advantage. Blair Betts jumped up when Ryan Suter fell down at the blueline, and completed a 2-on-1 with Fredrik Sjostrom to extend the Rangers lead to 4-2.

From there on in, it was a case of Nashville's offensive woes re-emerging. While Weber led the team with 5 shots on goal and 11 attempted shots total, the forwards had a more difficult time getting clean looks at the New York net. The Rangers' aggressive style kept Nashville from enjoying any time with the puck to set up a play.

Next up, the team heads west for a crucial road trip that begins Saturday in Phoenix. The Preds have defied the odds to rally on the road before, but can they do it if Jason Arnott has to miss a significant amount of action? David Legwand ended up with a commendable 26:23 of ice time, but with only one shot to show for it.