BY PATRICK MCCORMACK, PINCH-HITTING FOR THE MAVEN
But New York’s holiday blues continued as they fell to the scorching Minnesota Wild, 7-4, Friday at Madison Square Garden.
The Blueshirts looked to have found their game after they took an early 1-0 advantage on a goal from Chris Kreider. From there, the Wild took over, scoring five second-period goals to win their 10th straight contest.
The loss marked the first time the Rangers failed to pick up a point after a regulation loss. New York is now 10-1-1 in games following a defeat.
Overview: The Rangers had the perfect start. Chris Kreider scored in the first four minutes and it looked like New York was going to bounce back. But after the goal, it was all Minnesota. The Wild’s forecheck made it hard for the Rangers to exit their zone and the visitors scored six of the game’s next seven goals to build a comfortable lead.
1. A SWARMING DEFENSE: The Minnesota attack made it difficult for New York to start its rush up ice. The Wild were able to cycle in the Rangers’ end, and create offense.
2. A SLOPPY START TO THE SECOND: The score was 1-1 entering the second frame. The Wild scored two goals in the first 58 seconds from Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter. Marco Scandella then scored another goal at the 4:55 mark to give Minnesota a 4-2 lead.
3. LUNDQVIST STRUGGLED: The Rangers starter allowed four goals on 13 shots. Following three straight wins, the King wasn’t at his best. The performance brings about the question, how will he respond in his next start? In his career, Lundqvist has played well in games after being pulled.
Henrik Lundqvist says the Wild capitalized on the Rangers' mistakes and gives a critique on his own performance after the loss to Minnesota.
4. THE PENALTY KILL: The Blueshirts failed to kill their only penalty of the game as Minnesota took advantage of a penalty from Jesper Fast. The Wild netted a goal from Matt Dumba at the 17:24 mark of the second, making it 6-2 Minnesota.
5. THE POWER PLAY: New York’s man-advantage had two power plays in the third period, with an opportunity to cut into the deficit, but failed to convert.
6. FALLING BEHIND: Losing back-to-back games is tough in the Metropolitan Division. Teams in front of and behind New York keep winning, and tonight, the Rangers failed to keep pace.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. A GOOD START: The Blueshirts came out with pressure and it resulted in the first goal on a tic-tac-toe passing sequence between Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, and Kreider.
2. THE STEPAN, ZUCCARELLO, AND KREIDER LINE: The trio netted three of the Rangers’ four goals and registered a combined 9 points. The unit was consistently the team’s best line.
1. MOVE ON: The Rangers have a three-day holiday break to regroup and get ready for their next game.
WHAT THEY SAID:
ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “[It was] certainly not the way we wanted to go out into Christmas break. There is no excuse for tonight. At the end the day we had one line, Step’s [Derek Stepan’s] line, bringing out their A-game. The rest just weren’t good enough, from the goaltender on out.”
RYAN MCDONAGH ON THE TEAM’S WEEK: “It’s disappointing. We have an opportunity to kind of recover there and re-energize. But we still find ourselves not playing well with the puck and probably even more without the puck as far as our coverage.”
HENRIK LUNDQVIST ON THE SECOND PERIOD: “It was just a couple plays that happened where they just cashed in and it happened really quickly. Hockey is like that.”
BOTTOM LINE: The last two games weren’t the Rangers best. But they ran into a Wild team that is playing good hockey. New York has the group to rebound from consecutive losses and come back after the break. The panic button shouldn’t be pushed.
NEXT GAME: Tuesday night vs. Ottawa on MSG with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m.
OUTLOOK: New York has shown its resilience all season. After some rest, the Blueshirts have a chance to avoid their longest losing streak of the season at home against the Senators. Who does Vigneault start in net Lundqvist or Antti Raanta?