They call it March Madness, but the New York Rangers would like the quest to capturing their seventh consecutive playoff berth to be the least chaotic it can be. Defeating a Minnesota Wild team that currently resides near the top of the Western Conference standings on the road certainly helps in that endeavor.
After falling behind 1-0 early, the Rangers scored three unanswered goals before holding off a Minnesota rally to earn the 3-2 win at Xcel Energy Center, allowing them to split their yearly pair with the Wild.
The early stages of the game featured a sloppy comedy of errors for the Rangers (45-24-3), who took two early penalties, including one for too many men on the ice. Though they were able to kill off the penalty, the kill featuring a “goal” being taken off the board as the puck never entered the net, ex-Ranger Eric Staal put in his 24th of the season for the early lead. After the Rangers killed off another penalty, however, Brady Skjei put in a hard shot past Devan Dubnyk to tie things up before intermission.
While the second period has mostly been a house of horrors for the Rangers this season, they took control of the game in the middle frame in Minnesota. After withstanding a rush by the Wild (43-21-6), featuring some clutch saves by Antti Raanta, JT Miller and Rick Nash ventured back into the Minnesota zone, where Miller got the puck to a streak Oscar Lindberg, who tapped it in for his sixth of the season to permanently give the Rangers the lead. The Rangers would strike again in the late stages, as Jimmy Vesey ended a 14-game goal-free streak with his 15th of the season, last scoring on February 16.
Though the Wild scored on a power play, Matt Dumba being the contributor, the Rangers otherwise held them off for the remainder of the game, and they edged closer to clinching that playoff spot. With the win, the Rangers improved their impressive road record, tops in the NHL to 26-9-0. They are currently five away from tying the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings for the most in a single season in that category.
The Rangers will have a chance to track down that team, as the Wild game commenced a five-game road trip. They’ll next take on the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night in Newark (7:00, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490