A win! The New York Rangers finally picked up their second game of this extended home stand, and did so tonight in dominating fashion. The opening minutes of the game looked pretty ugly, and it appeared as if we were going to see the same disappointing story on replay yet again. Even though the Rangers did wind up giving up the first goal tonight, they responded with four unanswered goals, and simply outworked the Minnesota Wild all night long.
Cam Talbot picked up his seventh win on the season, as he know improves his career numbers to 7-2-0 in his first nine games. For whatever reason, the Rangers played a heck of a lot better in their own end while Talbot is in between the pipes. The seem calm with the puck in their own end, and their game is on an entirely different level. If they can start playing like that with Lundqvist back there, they can start stringing together a few wins over these few games.
As mentioned above, the opening minutes of this game were pretty ugly for the Rangers, and they surrendered the first goal yet again. After some confusion following an icing call, the Rangers had a breakdown in coverage which allowed Jason Pominville to sneak to the far post. John Moore only picked up Pominville as the puck was coming across the ice, and wasn't able to get his stick in the passing lane. Pominville basically had an empty net to deflect the puck into, and wasted no time doing so with the lack of coverage on him going to the net.
At that point everyone, including myself, probably started getting a little nervous as we've seen this exact outcome happen in the last eight games at home. However, tonight was a little different in terms of the Rangers push back, as once they grabbed the momentum, they kept it rolling for practically the rest of the game. A handful of minutes after the Wild took the early lead, the Rangers received a string of power plays where they were able to grab some momentum back in their favor.
After a few failed opportunities, the Rangers finally caught a break and were able to tie the game up at 1-1 following a Keith Ballard tripping penalty. Following a messy faceoff win, the Rangers were fighting the puck as it continued to bounce along the end boards. Eventually, Derick Brassard was able to come out with the puck, and fed it over to Ryan McDonagh who was wide open on the far side of the ice. Wasting no time, McDonagh fired a shot on net, and Benoit Pouliot was able to redirect it out of the air to beat Niklas Backstrom under the blocker.
Speaking of Pouliot, he's had a really, really good stretch of games here, and he's continuing to show why Alain Vigneault has had no choice but to keep giving him opportunities to succeed. He now has six points in his last eight games, and if he can keep up that pace he'll be a vital part of the Rangers bottom-six moving forward.
Heading into the second period, the Rangers had a big opportunity to completely shut the Wild down with the momentum tilted in their favor. They wound up doing exactly that, and had probably their most dominating period we've seen from them in a long, long time. They were able to outshoot the Wild 17-5 in that period, and even came away with two goals to show for it.
Carl Hagelin picked up the first goal of the period shortly after Brian Boyle's penalty expired following a holding penalty earlier in the period. Ryan McDonagh was able to hit Boyle right out the box with a pass, and he lugged it into the offensive zone to create the chance. Derek Dorsett wound up picking up the loose puck, and shoveling a pass cross ice to Hagelin who was sitting on the back door.
Luckily enough for Hagelin, Keith Ballard basically gift wrapped the puck for him, and deflected the puck right to Hagelin for an easy shot from at the top of the crease. Hagelin wound up putting the puck over the shoulder of Backstrom, and the Rangers finally had a lead to work with. Things continued to get better for the Rangers as they kept up their aggressive forecheck, and forced the Wild into making quick decisions.
Mats Zuccarello eventually put the Rangers up by two goals later on in the period off of a beautiful set up from Derick Brassard behind the net. Brassard single handedly walked through the entire Wild team along the boards, and worked his way behind the net where he would make a picture perfect saucer pass right on to the tape of Zuccarello cutting in front of the net. All Zuccarello really had to do at that point was fire a shot on net, and it was likely going to find it's way to the back of the net.
With the Rangers carrying over their momentum into the second period, Chris Kreider finally had his chance to shine with a quick chip pass from Rick Nash in the neutral zone. It's worth pointing out that Kreider was definitely looking to make a difference on this shift, as he was absolutely flying around the ice for the 20-30 seconds that he was on there. Kreider eventually burned Ballard once again, and right as he was able to rip a shot on net, Ballard was able to get a stick in front of the shot.
It appeared as if Niklas Backstrom was anticipating a high shot from Kreider, and he quickly dropped to his knees to square up to the shot. With the initial shot getting blocked, Backstrom was thrown off a little bit, and attempted a last second poke check to keep the puck from making it on net. For whatever reason, he completely whiffed on the poke check, and the puck slid right between his legs. Kreider's celebration basically summed up everyone's feelings on the goal as he continued to laugh all the way back to the bench.
The Rangers shut down the Wild for the final eight minutes of play, and earned their first regulation win since December 5th against the Buffalo Sabres. This win was all nice and dandy, but the Rangers will be right back it tomorrow night with the Toronto Maple Leafs coming to town. HBO will also be along for the ride, so it should make for an entertaining game.