SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Any hope that the Rangers had righted their listing ship with a victory at the Garden last night turned out to be misplaced — or at least premature.
The Blueshirts returned to the road Thursday night and returned to recent form, losing to the Wild, 5-2, at Xcel Energy Center to fall to 3-7-2 in their past 12 games. They have not won on the road in a month.
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There was no shame in falling to the Wild, a strong team now on a 6-0-3 streak. But pretty much all of the confidence and goodwill the Rangers built up during their red-hot start to the season has dissipated.
Speaking of cooling off, they left right after the game for Winnipeg, where the Rangers will play the Jets on Friday night. The forecast in Winnipeg is for temperatures well below zero before the Rangers leave town Saturday night.
The Rangers had their first chance against the Wild a mere 49 seconds into the game, and it was a doozy. Jesper Fast threaded a pass to Keith Yandle that resulted in a breakaway.
So when the Wild’s Marco Scandella hooked him from behind, Yandle was awarded a penalty shot. But Yandle’s shot was gloved by goaltender Devan Dubnyk (21 saves), and that was that. It would stand as the Rangers’ only shot on goal for more than 13 minutes.
The Wild took a 1-0 lead at 8:27 on a nifty pass from behind the net by Thomas Vanek that found Mikko Koivu alone in front. Koivu maneuvered to his backhand and beat Antti Raanta through his legs with Marc Staal coming over too late.
Raanta got the start on the front end of the back-to-back road games, with Henrik Lundqvist slated to start in Winnipeg. But the Rangers’ plans in net changed abruptly with 6:11 left in the first.
Scandella unleashed a slap shot from the faceoff circle to Raanta’s left and the puck struck him square on the forehead area of his helmet, leaving him stunned and face down while being attended to. He left the ice, and Lundqvist replaced him.
Lundqvist had not been expecting to be busy last night. He got in a heavy workout during a morning skate that featured the injured Derek Stepan and Kevin Klein, and he was settling in for a quiet night on the bench.
No such luck; he ended up allowing four goals.
The Rangers got a power play 10:34 into the second when Jarret Stoll, who was a Ranger until Monday, was called for tripping.
The Wild nearly made the Stoll penalty work for them when Justin Fontaine had a shorthanded chance. But his shot hit the post.
Dan Boyle of the Rangers was called for hooking at 15:40, which proved to be a damaging penalty when the Wild took a 2-0 lead shortly before the power play ended. Lundqvist saved a Nino Niederreiter shot, but the rebound floated into the air and was swatted into the goal by Matt Dumba.
Then, with 8.9 seconds left, the Rangers’ Emerson Etem hit Dominic Moore in the slot and he ripped a shot past Dubnky’s glove to make it 2-1.
Brady Skjei, a Rangers rookie playing in the arena where he grew up as a fan, was whistled for holding midway through the third. Then 17 seconds into the power play, at 9:38, Jason Pominville outraced another Ranger from the Twin Cities area, Ryan McDonagh, and poked the puck past Lundqvist to make it 3-1.
Forty seconds later, Chris Porter lifted a backhander that bounced in off Lundqvist’s shoulder, and suddenly it was 4-1. McDonagh made it 4-2, but Koivu restored the three-goal lead with just over two minutes left.