ST. PAUL, Minn. - Rangers coach Alain Vigneault wanted more net presence on offense. But in the end, it was the Minnesota Wild's tenacity and effort in front of the Blueshirts' net Thursday night that sent the Rangers to their second straight loss, 2-1.
With the score tied at 1 at Excel Energy Center, Zach Parise scored his 23rd goal of the season 1:03 into the third period during a scrum. Cam Talbot stopped several whacks in close by Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville before the game-winner.
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"It's unacceptable," Rick Nash said. "When the puck's there, everybody's got to collapse and everybody's got to take a guy. Cam made the first two or three saves . . . you can't expect him to make all of them. And we've got to establish more offense, more shots; it's just not going our way right now. We've got another big one tomorrow. We've got to be hungry for points."
With 15 games left, the Rangers, who have scored two goals in two games, are stuck at 74 points. They visit Winnipeg Friday night with a final chance to salvage a game in this three-city trip before coming home to play San Jose on Sunday.
The two losses were an unusual stumble away from Madison Square Garden. The Rangers were 19-11 on the road before the poor effort in Tuesday's 3-1 loss to the Hurricanes that left Vigneault steaming.
Vigneault, who wanted more traffic in front, switched left wings on his top lines, moving Chris Kreider with Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards, and Carl Hagelin with Derek Stepan and Nash.
St. Louis, who has no goals in five games since the trade that sent Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay a week ago, also debuted on the point on the power play, with zero results.
"Oh, he's pressing," Vigneault said. "New environment, he wants to do well, he's putting a lot of pressure on himself and he's got to work his way through it, and he will."
So initially, Vigneault's changes failed. The Rangers didn't fire enough pucks at Darcy Kuemper, with only 14 shots through 40 minutes. "Right now, five-on-five, we're not generating the chances that would permit us to finish a little bit more," Vigneault said.
The Rangers had a chance to tie with 3:20 left in regulation when Kyle Brodziak went off for a delay of game. And with time left on the power play, Vigneault pulled Talbot. But Kuemper (12-4-3), who finished with 29 saves, shut the door.
Stepan was whistled for a hook at 10:39 of the first period, and 29 seconds after the power play ended, forechecking by Matt Cooke and Brodziak in the left corner forced John Moore and Nash to fumble an exchange. Brodziak found Nino Niederreiter alone in front, and he fired his 12th past Talbot, who had little chance at 13:08. "Bad bounce, good quick shot," said Talbot (24 saves).
In the second, with Brodziak off for high-sticking, Stepan tied the score with his 12th goal, zipping a shot stick-side past Kreider's screen at 3:19. Ryan McDonagh and Nash were awarded assists. But that was it.
"They played tight," Derick Brassard said. "They don't give you many odd-man rushes. You've got to go through five guys."
Friday night, they somehow need to get more pucks past just one: the opposing goaltender.