The Minnesota Wild found something (finally!) to enable them to win on the road. With a big win in Brooklyn to beat the Islanders on Monday, the Wild followed it up with a strong 2nd period to beat the Devils on Thursday. Friday, Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund each potted four points and combined for four goals en route to 4-1 victory over the Rangers to sweep the three-game road trip.
The first period was a bit of a snooze-fest with not much action happening on the ice. the Wild were good defensively, but had issues getting much pressure on Rangers starter Alexandr Georgiev through the first half of the period. Minnesota’s Mikeal Granlund pounced on a turnover forced by Staal behind the Ranger net to open the scoring. The puck popped out to the top of the crease where Granlund roofed it over the glove of Georgiev.
Joel Eriksson Ek had his two-game goal streak come to an end Friday, but he was active around the net and got a couple chances with one shot on net. He was placed on a line with Tyler Ennis and Nino Niederreiter, and it should be no coincidence that Eriksson Ek got good chances in front of the net.
Eric Staal got the Wild out to a 2-0 lead when he was the last one to touch the puck before the puck blew past Georgiev. The goal was awarded initially to Granlund, but in the third period, this goal was given to Staal, taking away the hat trick from number 64. Minnesota finished a snoozer of a period with two big goals.
The second period featured more puck dominance by the Wild. Minnesota outshot the Rangers by a 14-6 margin for the period, but couldn’t wrinkle the twine. Instead, Jesper Fast cut the Wild lead in half when he scored just 2:41 into the period. The Wild kept to their game and set up for an important final frame.
Staal got the Wild’s finishing touch going immediately. He got the shaft of his stick on a Ryan Suter shot from the right point to make the score 3-1. Minnesota continued to stay on the pedal when Granlund and Jason Zucker got a fortunate bounce off the linesman. It slowed the puck just enough for the two to catch up to the play and entered the zone on a 2-on-1 break. Granlund used Zucker as the decoy as he made a little toe drag and fired a wrister under the glove of Georgiev.
That goal would have been a hat trick goal for Granlund, and his second three goal night of the season. The second goal of the game would get changed near the end of the period to Staal, ruining that moment for the kid that could be on track to match his 69-point campaign from last season.
Minnesota ended 1-for-1 on the power play, and killed off the only chance from the Rangers. Let’s be honest, the Rangers healthy scratched Rick Nash and traded Michael Grabner before the game. Ryan McDonagh is still injured and the Rangers had a lot of youth in the line-up, including at the goaltender position. It was Alexandr Georgiev’s second NHL game of his career. This Rangers team has nothing for which to play, nor were there any big knockers in the line-up to make a difference. That said, a win, actually, stringing wins together is huge for this team that has yet to go on any kind of meaningful win streak.
Dubnyk is rebounding nicely in February. After posting a .914 save percentage in January, he has a .927 save percentage so far in March. That includes a 7-2 drubbing by Dallas and a terrible game versus the Capitals. Let’s hope he continues to trend upward.
Wild will head home to take on the Sharks on Sunday. Minnesota then would play the Blues. All games are huge until the post season in the Western Conference, but these next two are must-wins to help keep pace in the West and maintain their 3rd place positioning in the division.