NEW YORK -- Matt Cullen lost a goal but gained a win in his return to Madison Square Garden.
Bottom line, that was way more important to the Carolina Hurricanes.
"It was fun to come in and get a win," said Cullen, traded back to Carolina this summer after one season with the Rangers. "It's important for us because we've sort of been struggling. It was important for us to have a good defensive game which was key to the whole night."
That goal was originally credited to Cullen, but it was determined in the third period that the puck struck Rangers defenseman Jason Strudwick and not Cullen's stick.
"Yeah, they stole it," he said with a laugh. "I was kind of tangled up with Struddy in front. I didn't know if it bounced off me or him but that's the beauty of video review, right?"
Ward made that early lead stand up, stopping 28 shots for his fourth NHL shutout. It was quite a turnaround for the Hurricanes, who played their fourth game in six days and offset an 8-1 drubbing in Buffalo on Saturday that kicked off a five-game road trip.
Carolina had lost four of six.
"It's how you respond from those situations that really matter," said Ward, who watched backup John Grahame give up eight goals on 25 shots to the Sabres. "Obviously things didn't go well in Buffalo but we did a good job of leaving that result in Buffalo.
"Once we got to New York, it was like a new mind-set. We had to because we couldn't afford to not be sharp tonight because they have too good of a team over there."
That club never really was in the game.
The Rangers had a chance to tie Ottawa atop the Eastern Conference standings but didn't show signs they were ready to build off their impressive 5-2 road win against the Senators on Saturday.
"You'd like to think that we're sort of mature enough as a team to recognize you've got to sort of maintain some equilibrium," coach Tom Renney said. "Tonight it just wasn't there. There wasn't sort of that synapse between the brain and feet."
David Tanabe made it 3-0 with 8:30 left in the game, and Stillman finished the scoring at 15:56 with his 15th goal.
"It was a real stinker," Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. "There was nothing good about this one."
Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves, but allowed more than three goals in a game for just the second time in 25 appearances this season.
"We wanted to come back to New York after a good road game and play a good game," Lundqvist said. "Starting with myself, we have to play better."
Cullen, who wasn't fully comfortable in New York after leaving the Hurricanes following their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2006, already has 21 assists this season after recording only 25 with the Rangers.
He made a quick pass to Walker, off a feed from Chad LaRose, to set up Carolina's first goal 5:22 into the first period. That gave the Hurricanes a 5-0 advantage in shots, an edge that would grow to 7-0 before the Rangers would get a shot after nearly seven minutes had elapsed.
New York closed that gap throughout the remaining minutes of the period, and sustained some pressure toward the end. But the Hurricanes were the ones who made it count when Stillman pushed the lead to 2-0 with 15.1 seconds remaining.
Cullen crashed the crease and was there when Stillman sent the puck from the goal line to Lundqvist's left that hit Strudwick and went in.
"It was probably one of the best first periods we've had in a long time," Ward said. "It set us up for the rest of the night."
The truly crushing goal was scored by Tanabe, right after he left the penalty box. Jaromir Jagr broke his stick as he teed up a shot in the right circle, and went to the bench for a new one. The puck was cleared by Carolina and got caught in Jagr's skates along the boards. Tanabe got to it and went down to score his first of the season.
"Guys worked really hard," Stillman said, "and I think we deserved to win."
The Rangers picked up the pace somewhat in the scoreless second and sent 11 shots Ward's way. Ward made a snap glove save to deny Chris Drury with 12 minutes left in the period, and then turned aside a drive by Blair Betts with 2.5 seconds to go.
"They earned the win right from the drop of the puck, but we didn't measure up as an opponent," Renney said.
Ward had gone 2-2 with a 3.54 goals-against average in his previous four starts -- all at home -- but he is 6-1-1 with a 2.23 GAA on the road this season.
- The Rangers were 7-1-1-1 against the Hurricanes in the previous 10 home meetings.
- Tanabe hadn't scored since April 7 against Florida.
- Lundqvist entered 9-4 at home with a 1.54 GAA and three shutouts.