NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Life without injured Henrik Lundqvist for the next three weeks began with a solid effort on the road against one of the NHL's top teams.
But after a 3-2 loss to the Predators Saturday, the Rangers left Music City without a point and with a three-game winning streak in the dust.
Mike Ribeiro snapped a 2-2 tie at 12:46 of the third period with a rising shot from the left circle that Cam Talbot saw too late to lift the Predators over the Rangers (30-16-4), who held their own for most of the matinee in a building in which the Predators are 21-3-1.
"A lot of times I'm thinking about passing," said Ribeiro, whose point was his 700th. "That was the end of my shift, so I was thinking shot before I got the puck."
The Rangers lamented a lost opportunity.
"That's just what happens against good teams, but we have to find a way to win that one, especially coming back in the third," said Rick Nash, who scored his 33rd goal of the season to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second period. "Their defense boxes out pretty well, but once we kind of worked a little bit harder to get in front, we had some good opportunities."
Nash was referring to forging a 2-2 tie on Ryan McDonagh's first goal since New Year's Eve. He beat Pekka Rinne through traffic at 1:37 of the third period.
But the Rangers, who surrendered two goals in a 41-second span during the final two minutes of the second period on blasts by defensemen Roman Josi and Shea Weber, couldn't solve Rinne (30 saves) the rest of the way. Derick Brassard, who had two assists, missed an open net on a two-on-one with Mats Zuccarello with less than three minutes to play.
"I really liked the way we played on the road," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We didn't give them too many opportunities. A couple of the goals, the puck had eyes and found the holes. In the second, we played a great period until then."
Weber's go-ahead goal was unstoppable, Marc Staal said: "It sets up on a tee for a guy with the hardest shot in the world."
But Talbot, who made 20 saves and will start against Dallas Sunday -- the first time he will start three games in five days -- called Ribeiro's goal "a backbreaker."
"I think the puck went right between two of them [in front],'' he said. "Saw it at the last second. I was a little late."
The Predators came closest to scoring in the first period. Just before the seven-minute mark, Talbot, Staal and Kevin Klein combined to clog the crease and deny a couple of shot attempts. In the final minute, Filip Forsberg's wrister flew past Talbot's glove but dinged the left post.
Talbot did make several key saves in front. "He gave us a chance,'' Vigneault said, "and that's all you can ask."
Vigneault will be asking more of Talbot, who prevailed in a 3-2 win over Boston on Wednesday, because Lundqvist will be out an extended time with a neck injury. To win consistently, the Rangers will need to find ways to continue scoring at a pace of close to three goals a game.
"There's not many positives when you lose," said Nash, who took over the league lead in goals, "but at least we get right back at it."