The New York Rangers were able to overcome a third period tie, and defeated the Minnesota Wild by a final score of 3-2. In addition, the Rangers also locked up first place in the Metropolitan division, and secured home-ice advantage throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs. Tonight certainly wasn't an easy game by any means, and the Rangers fell into a shell once again in the third period.
If not for Henrik Lundqvist coming up absolutely huge throughout the entire game, this one easily could have gotten out of hand. After a shaky start in Boston, Lundqvist has really coming back to form, and tonight's performance was vintage Lundqvist.
Unlike the last handful of games, the Rangers actually came out of the gates flying, and were rewarded an early lead just 2:09 into regulation. Carl Hagelin was able to make a great defensive play, which led to him picking off Thomas Vanek's pass, and he transitioned the puck back the other way. Hagelin pulled up just inside the blue line, and found Dominic Moore cutting to the front of the net uncontested. Hagelin lofted a soft shot-pass towards Moore, and he was able to redirect it just under the arm of Devan Dubnyk.
About 12 minutes after the opening goal, the Rangers were handed another opportunity to extend their lead, as Justin Fontaine was whistled down for hi-sticking Kevin Hayes. Just 22 seconds into the man-advantage, Rick Nash fooled Dubnyk by selling the pass, and he banked it in off of his leg to give the Rangers at 2-0 lead. Keith Yandle also played a large part in the goal by distracting Dubnyk and sliding down from the point. That gave the goaltender an extra threat to worry about, which opened the door for Nash to convert.
After a relatively solid first period by the Rangers, they marched into the second period with a commanding 2-0 lead. However, that lead would only last about five minutes, as Jason Pominville cashed in a fluke bounce to the side of the net. Matt Dumba wound up tossing a hopeful wrist shot towards the net, and with a ton of traffic in front, the puck took a deflection off of Pominville's skate.
Lundqvist didn't really stand on a chance on the goal, and just like that, the Wild made this a one goal game. The Rangers were able to hold that lead for the remainder of the second period, but just five minutes into the third, the Wild pulled even. After numerous saves by Lundqvist at the top of the crease, the puck eventually worked its way back out to Matt Dumba, who fired a shot off of the post. Unfortunately, the Rangers weren't able to clear the crease, and Thomas Vanek was waiting on the doorstep to knock home the loose puck.
This goal was inevitable, especially with the Rangers shelling up in the third period once again. Although, just under a minute after the Wild knotted things up, J.T. Miller came to the rescue once again, and restored the Rangers one goal lead. Chris Kreider starts the entire play by chipping the puck past Chris Stewart after losing the face-off, and flew down ice to create some space in the offensive zone.
He eventually dished the puck back to Ryan McDonagh, who made a couple of head fakes, and ripped a hard, low wrist shot towards the net. Miller was able to get a slight piece of the puck, which sent the puck between Dubnyk's legs, and into the back of the net. For the remaining 13 minutes, the Rangers were able to hold their 3-2 lead, and thanks to a huge last second save by Lundqvist, they came away with two huge points.
As mentioned above, this win clinches the Metropolitan division for the Rangers, and the only think not set in stone at the moment is their first round opponent. The Rangers will be back in action on Saturday evening, when they welcome in the New Jersey Devils.