Rangers win at home, 4-1, over Minnesota Wild
Web linksSteve Zipay's Blue Notes
The Rangers got what they desperately needed Sunday night: a win at home.
With Cam Talbot starting in net instead of Henrik Lundqvist, and an improved performance on special teams, the Rangers beat the Wild, 4-1, at Madison Square Garden.
"Oh, we definitely needed one of these just to feel good about ourselves," said Carl Hagelin, whose goal broke a 1-1 tie in the second period. "Everyone in here contributed and everyone should feel good about themselves."
How desperate were the Rangers to receive a standing ovation from the home crowd for a change?
They entered the game 6-10-2 at home this season (they are 10-8-0 on the road). They were 2-8-2 in their last 12 at the Garden. They had not won a game in regulation in their last seven. And they were 1-4-2 in the first seven games of this nine-game homestand, which concludes Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers chose a most opportune time to play what Hagelin referred to as probably their best game all season.
After a 1-1 first period, they dominated in the second and had 17 shots on goal. The Wild managed only five.
Hagelin beat Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (32 saves) for his eighth goal of the season to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Late in the period, Derick Brassard weaved through defenders, skated around the net and centered a pass into the slot to Mats Zuccarello, who scored his eighth goal with 1:25 left to give the Rangers a two-goal cushion.
Chris Kreider scored the Rangers' fourth goal with 7:14 left in the third, and probably not how he expected. He almost fanned on a wrist shot because of defensive pressure, but Backstrom whiffed on the puck himself, and it trickled under the goalie for Kreider's ninth of the season.
However, it was a less than stellar start for the Rangers, as Minnesota (20-13-5) was the more persistent team on the puck in the first period.
After a lengthy stoppage as referees checked which Rangers were on the ice for an icing, Ryan Suter hit Jason Pominville, who poked in a goal at the crease 4:08 into the game to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Pominville was alone in front of the goal in what appeared to be a miscommunication on the defensive side for the Rangers.
The Rangers capitalized on their second power play when Benoit Pouliot's redirection of Ryan McDonagh's pass found the back of the net with 3:52 left in the period. Pouliot has a point in four straight games.
The momentum from that goal seemed to carry over the rest of the way.
Talbot (24 saves) wasn't tested much but made the saves when he needed to and won the battle of backup goaltenders. The Wild was without starter Josh Harding, who was placed on injured reserve while adjustments are made to his medication for multiple sclerosis.
Harding has been solid for the Wild. He has an 18-5-3 record and a league-leading 1.51 goals-against average.
Lundqvist had started eight consecutive games, dating to the win at Buffalo on Dec. 5. He surrendered at least three goals in each of the last seven games.
Talbot has played well since being called up from AHL Hartford on Oct. 15. He entered Sunday night 6-2-0 with a 1.74 goals-against and .934 save percentage but hadn't started since a Dec. 2 loss to Winnipeg.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he knows who will start in net Monday night, but he did not announce it.
"Anything can happen and you always have to be ready," Talbot said. "Hank is the proven number one and he's going to get the bulk of the games. I knew this would be my role and I'm fine with that. I just stay focused and stay ready and try to give the guys an opportunity to win."