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Rangers fall to Wild as losing streak reaches six games

Chris Kreider and John Gilmour of the Rangers

Chris Kreider and John Gilmour of the Rangers during a stoppage in play during the third period against the Wild at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Credit: Jim McIsaac

With a cloud of uncertainty parked over the Rangers and injuries and youth among them, the atmospheric conditions at ice level haven’t exactly been conducive to reeling off wins.

Just to reeling.

The losing continued Friday night. The Minnesota Wild entered the Garden and finished off a sweep of the three area teams in a five-day span. Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each contributed two goals and two assists in the Wild’s 4-1 win.

So the Rangers have dropped six straight, 10 of 12 and 16 of 21 to fall to 27-30-5. Their record is 2-6 since Feb. 8, when management announced its intent to rebuild, leaving that cloud hovering over veterans wondering about being dealt before Monday’s trade deadline.

Nick Holden was sent outbound Tuesday and Michael Grabner followed him Thursday. Rick Nash has been scratched the last two games while he awaits his destination. Other names could be coming off the marquee by 3 p.m. Monday.

“We want our guys to focus on doing their jobs, but these are obviously unusual circumstances,” Alain Vigneault said. “But you’ve got to play and you’ve got to try and play well.”

There also have been plenty of injuries, but they got one player back from the list against Minnesota. Chris Kreider returned after missing 24 games because of a blood clot in his right arm and subsequent surgery for a rib resection. The Rangers went 7-16-1 after he went down Dec. 27.

“I felt like it was my first NHL game again,” Kreider said. “I was kind of nervous all day. It was definitely an emotional game for me . . . It’s hard because obviously the team is going through a rough time, but I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Alexandar Georgiev ended up starting over the struggling Henrik Lundqvist in both ends of this back-to-back. Vigneault said goaltending coach Benoit Allaire “has been wanting a little more practice time with Hank” and that Georgiev had played well Thursday night.

After making 38 saves in the 3-1 loss at Montreal — a franchise record for an NHL debut — Georgiev made 33 more. The 22-year-old rookie didn’t have much of a chance on the goals.

“I think we gave them a little bit too much time and space,” Brady Skjei said.

Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo gave the Wild (34-20-7) an assist on the first one. He raced to collect the puck behind the goal line, then tried to pass it from behind the net, but the puck deflected out off the skate of Staal, a former Ranger. Granlund was there to flick it in from close range with 3:54 left in the opening period.

“They’ve got a lot of young D,” Staal said. “When you see that, you have to take advantage of making plays.”

Staal scored with 1:17 left in the first after Zach Parise backhanded a pass in front from below the left circle.

The Rangers countered 2:41 into the second. J.T. Miller crossed the puck from the right circle and picked up his 100th career assist as Jesper Fast beat Devan Dubnyk.

Minnesota responded by cashing in a power play 52 seconds into the third. Staal deflected in Ryan Suter’s wrist shot from above the right circle to make it 3-1.

Granlund scored again at 9:22, this one zipping by Georgiev from near the inner edge of the right circle.

“Those players can create chances out of nothing,” Georgiev said about the lessons of these last two nights. “You just have to be focused all the time and expect everything from them.”

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