Hockey? It seemed like a long time since the Wild last played that it brought back harsh memories of a Wild-less post-season. After a four day hiatus, the Wild were back in action against the Eastern Conference's best team and former Stanley Cup runners-up New York Rangers. In most articles previewing the game, you were expecting a game that featured tons of speed and great goaltending. The first period was anything but that for the Wild.
The Rangers came out with a good jump in the first period and jumped on the Wild early. Two minutes in, former Wild player Dominic Moore got the scoring started with a tipped Carl Hagelin shot. Mikael Granlund found Zach Parise alone in the slot, but Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lunqvist was equal to the task. Justin Fontaine was whistled for a high-sticking minor. Rick Nash notched his 41st goal of the season on the ensuing power play. His low angle shot caught the inside of Devan Dubnyk's blocker and trickled in to the net. It was not a good period coming off such a long lay-off for the Wild.
Minnesota came out much stronger in the second period. The fourth line provided a solid momentum shift by getting shots and extended zone time for the first time on the Rangers. The Wild started to apply what looked like a full court press and forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Granlund took the puck up ice and dropped it for Matt Dumba, who got off a backhanded shot to the net that deflected off of Jason Pominville's skate and in. The Wild were ready to even the game up at two, but a soft Thomas Vanek minor for interference at 8:54 was called and it begun a long march to the box for the Wild. Vanek was pushed from behind as he was setting a screen, and the pushed nudged him into Ryan McDonagh, who dropped like he was house of cards. The Wild's penalty kill was able to kill it off, but a Kyle Brodziak high-sticking minor would put the Wild short-handed once again. Again the Wild's number one ranked PK was successful.
The officiating was a bit of a gong show Thursday night. From bad calls, to non-calls, and linesmen kicking centers out of the faceoffs to waving off clear icing infractions, it was a screamfest at my TV.
Late in the second period, Ryan Suter's stick caught J.T. Miller up in the facial region and it drew blood for a four minute double-minor. Minnesota was able to kill most of the penalty until Ryan Carter would get called for a puck-over-the-glass delay of game penalty. The Wild were two men short for 48 seconds. To make matters worse, Brodziak would shatter his stick early in the two-man disadvantage. But Brodziak would end up getting a couple helmet taps back at the bench after blocking a shot and two attempts to clear the zone with his glove. The puck ended up to the weak side and Marco Scandella was able to clear the zone and officially kill Suter's penalty right before the horn ended the 2nd period and a raucous ovation from the home crowd.
The Wild still had 65 seconds left on Carter's penalty to begin the third period. Minnesota was able to kill of the penalties completely and as soon as Carter was out of the box, Lundqvist was forced to make a humongous save to keep the lead. The Wild were really trying to up the ante in the game and Thomas Vanek would deliver. After a mad scramble in front of the Ranger net, Matt Dumba took a hard slap shot that went wide but caromed right back to Vanek's stick for the slam dunk goal to tie it up. The Wild must have felt like they could exhale because 56 seconds after Vanek's game-tying goal, J.T. Miller tipped a Ryan McDonagh shot through Dubnyk's five hole to regain the lead. The Wild would get Dubnyk pulled with about a minute and a half remaining, but struggle to gain the offensive zone. The Rangers cleared their zone three times, two of which were clearly icing infractions that the linesmen decided to wipe-off late. The Wild did eventually gain the zone and a Granlund cross-ice pass to Pominville couldn't connect for the one-timer. Time would run out and the Wild would fall in regulation 3-2.
The Wild were 0-for-2 on the power play and killed 5-out-of-6 penalties. Minnesota was 64 percent in the face off dots and out-shot the Rangers 28-26. That shot count is amazing when considering the Wild were killing six penalties on the night.
The Wild's magic number of five does not change with the loss Thursday. Here's an update of the current standings:
Here is the 5v5 Corsi chart for Thursday night courtesy of War-on-Ice.com: