Wild and wooly is one way to describe the manner in which Minnesota’s sextet has rampaged through this season.
Surprising would be another.
Who would have figured that a club headed by a coach, who had been fired twice in the past decade, would sport one of the best records in the NHL.
Yet, Bruce Boudreau’s image is far different from his results — first in Washington and then Anaheim — because this man has, for the most part, been a winner.
Prepared for such a terrific team and coach, the Rangers arrived last night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul determined to regroup after Friday night’s shootout loss to Florida.
“At that point,” recalled MSG Networks analyst Steve Valiquette, “the Rangers got away with a little bit of luck.”
Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with the 3-2 score when the final buzzer sounded in St. Paul. Another two points on the road. Whew!
OVERVIEW: It’s both laudable and kind of amazing how the Rangers bounce back after a loss the night before. Likewise, nifty that the three goals were spread among a defenseman, fourth-liner and rookie; the freshman being Vesey who tallied his 15th goal of the campaign. Meanwhile, Raanta seemed better in the second game of the back-to-back duet than against Florida.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. TAKING FIRST PUNCH — AND THEN: Minnesota got the opening goal and might well have piled it on, but rookie defenseman Skjei got it right back and his teammates were off and running from there.
2. THE ROYAL RAANTA: There’s little doubt that admirable Antti can play as many games as necessary until Henrik Lundqvist returns from sick bay.
3. HOLD TIGHT, HOLD TIGHT: After the Wild brought the score up to 3-2 in the final period, pressure fazed neither Raanta nor his mates. They held tight and emerged with two points, which is all that mattered.
4. ANOTHER ONE FOR THE ROAD: “Away Ice Advantage” has become the Rangers byword. For totally inexplicable reasons, the Blueshirts excel away from home and did so last night at Xcel Center. That’s 26 wins out of town.
5. WINNING AN OSCAR: Unobtrusively, Lindberg finds ways to make a difference. He did it again in St. Paul. The Sweet Swede has six points in his last 15 games.
TURNING POINT: Vesey’s goal at 17:34 of the middle frame — assists to Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan McDonagh — provided a two-goal cushion. After Minnesota tallied in the third, Jimmy’s counter held up as the winning goal.
WHAT THEY SAID:
1. DEREK STEPAN: “We’re focusing on elevating our game as the playoffs approach.”
3. MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI: “Antti Raanta was terrific again especially early on to get the Rangers started on the road to victory. Once the Rangers scored their first goal, the game changed in their favor.”
4. BRADY SKJEI: “It was a thrill to score one in my hometown rink.”
5. MSG NETWORKS ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “The most important thing was simplifying the Rangers game. On the road, they play it simple.”
6. J.T. MILLER: “Brady’s goal was so important. We needed to be gritty and we were. We played heavy when they had the puck.”
7. ANTTI RAANTA: “I knew when we had a 3-1 lead that the guys were helping me a lot. The Wild scored again, but it worked out with a big two points for us. They have speedy, skill guys, but I was ready. My battle level was high right down to their last chance in the last seconds. That’s what’s needed at this point in the season.”
8. MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST STEVE VALIQUETTE: “Antti keeps getting better and better.”
9. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “There’s no doubt we played a good game in a tough building. When we had breakdowns Antti made the big saves. We got a solid effort from the whole group.”
BOTTOM LINE: En route to the playoffs, the Rangers are secure in the knowledge that they can win against any team, any time on the road. Now they have to figure out the manner in which they used to win games regularly at The Garden!