A Merry Christmas for the Rangers? Hardly.
The Minnesota Wild won its 10th straight game on Friday night, beating the Blueshirts, 7-4, at the Garden after scoring five second-period goals.
The Wild chased Henrik Lundqvist — who allowed four goals on 13 shots, including three in the first 4:55 of the second — and continued to embarrass the Rangers’ loose defense, scoring twice more against Antti Raanta in the period.
That sent the Blueshirts into the three-day holiday break with a second thrashing in four days. The loss ended their worst two-game stretch of the season, following Tuesday night’s 7-2 rout in Pittsburgh. In that game, Raanta was hung out to dry. Missed defensive assignments, rebounds allowed, broken plays and shaky goaltending doomed the Rangers.
“There’s no excuse for tonight. We had one line bringing their ‘A’ game,’’ said Alain Vig neault, referring to Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello, who totaled three goals and nine points. “The rest weren’t good enough, goaltender on out.’’
Mentioning the schedule and fatigue, Vigneault added, “As much as it might have looked like a pass on the prior game, there’s definitely not a pass on this one. We need quite a few players to pick up their level.”
Vigneault, who scratched rookie defenseman Brady Skjei in part to send a message, threatened more changes. “He’s not the only one after tonight that could get a message,” he said.
The Rangers scored first as Stepan fed Zuccarello, who found Kreider cutting through the circle for a goal at 3:54. Kreider fired low past Wild backup goalie Darcy Kuemper. The Wild tied it at 9:53 when Mikael Granlund’s stoppable short-side shot got past Lundqvist.
The roof fell in with two goals 18 seconds apart early in the second period, starting with Mikko Koivu and ending with Nino Niederreiter at 58 seconds. Ryan McDonagh responded at 2:17, scoring on a shot from the left point to make it 3-2, but that was the closest the Rangers got.
Michael Scandella slid a backhanded rebound under Lundqvist at 4:55, sending him to the bench. “That first goal shouldn’t go in,” Vigneault said. “Second period, three of the first four shots go in, and it snowballed from there.”
Said Lundqvist: “I’m not going to blame anything. I have to find a way to be more on my toes. I wasn’t able to make those saves.”
Raanta was helpless on No. 5 as Granlund’s shot hit Marc Staal and bounced to an uncovered Jason Zucker, who scored at 12:14. The sixth goal came when Matt Dumba had two open whacks from the left side on a power play. “We’re in a situation when a couple go in, we’ve got to handle it better . . . not go the other way,” Staal said.
Stepan scored with a minute to go in the period, but the damage was done. Twenty shots had produced six goals.
Down 6-3, Vig neault juggled lines and defense pairs in the third, but the Rangers were 0-for-2 on the power play, increasing their man-advantage slump to 12. Kreider scored again with three minutes left and Raanta pulled. Charlie Coyle ended the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:09 left.
“We certainly didn’t play strong enough” in front or in coverage, McDonagh said. “We had an opportunity to recover and re-energize, and still find ourselves not playing well with the puck and even worse without it.”