On a night when legendary New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist was in the spotlight as his jersey headed to the rafters of Madison Square Garden, the Minnesota Wild upstaged the production in a come-from-behind, 3-2 victory to stretch the team’s points streak to eight games against one of the top teams in the Eastern conference. Mats Zuccarello got top billing for the Wild with a goal and an assist against his former team, stretching his personal scoring streak to 10 games. Kevin Fiala added a goal and assist, also earning points in 10 straight contests, while Freddy Gaudreau had the game-winner for the Wild. Cam Talbot finished his first full game in 2022 after leaving his last two contests with injuries, stopping 25 of 27 shots in the win.
The game got off to a slow start for the Wild with Fiala taking the first penalty of the game just two minutes and fifteen seconds in to the tilt, heading off for high sticking. The Rangers didn’t score on the games first power play with (thanks primarily to Talbot making a couple big saves), but the Rangers kept the ice tilted throughout the first period, owning the expected goals battle 72.6-27.4% on a bunch of Wild turnovers.
Matt Boldy had the best chance early for Minnesota, who had a shot handcuff Ranger goaltender Igor Shesterkin but ultimately was turned away. Less than a minute later, another Wild turnover turned into the easiest of scoring opportunities for Barclay Goodrow, who took a pass from Jacob Trouba and had about 25 minutes to tee up an open net shot for a 1-0 lead.
With just under three minutes to play in the first, the Rangers extended the lead to 2-0 on a nifty between-the-legs goal as he was being checked into Talbot by Jordie Benn.
Despite a late power play, the Wild didn’t get much going in a slow first period and ended the first frame down two and trailing in shots 12-5.
Early in the second, the Wild had a scare when Marcus Foligno crashed hard into the boards trying to break up a two-on-zero scoring opportunity after Benn and Dmitry Kulikov collided, allowing the Rangers a golden chance. Foligno dove to get a stick in the way, but while he successfuly broke up the chance, his momentum took him hard into the boards. He limped to the bench and was checked by the trainers, but luckily later returned.
A rarity in the NHL these days, Gaudreau was awarded a penalty shot after springing himself for a breakway on a Ranger turnover at the defensive point. Braden Schneider had no choice but to maul Gaudreau, earning the Wild forward a penalty shot, but Shesterkin wasn’t fooled by Gaudreau’s moves and easily made the save.
Though the penalty shot failed, the Wild seemed to gain their footing in the second period, owning a 9-2 shot lead before Talbot was forced to make a series of saves to keep the within reach.
The Wild kept on the pressure, and after a strong shift where they were able to maintain the zone with some nice extra effort, Ryan Hartman protected the puck with one hand before feeding Fiala in front of the net, who buried a wrister past Shesterkin to cut the lead to 2-1.
About 30 seconds later, Hartman drew an interference penalty on Alexis Lafreniere, and Zuccarello made his former team pay in his homecoming, tying the game at two on a one-time power-play blast off a Kirill Kaprizov assist.
The temperature betweeen the teams began to heat after some crease contact between Jordan Greenway and Shesterkin led to a brouhaha in the corner. Later, the Rangers’ Johnny Brodzinski took Kaprizov into the boards with a questionable hit, and Kirill got up slowly favoring the shoulder that cost him some time earlier in January - but Kaprizov luckily looked no worse for wear.
In the end, the Wild absolutely flipped the ice on the Rangers in the second period, dominating in shots (19-7), Corsi for percentage (69.4-30.6%) and expected goals percentage (71.3-28.7%) - and it showed on the ice and on the scoreboard.
The Wild carried their momentum into the third, owning the early zone time and keeping on the pressure. Just 1:49 into the final frame, Zuccarello made a nice pass to Fiala as he was heading off for a line change, and Fiala found a streaking Gaudreau who made up for his penalty shot miss in the second by beating Shesterkin with a shot off the near post and into the net for the Wild’s first lead of the game.
With the Wild keeping up the pressure on a tired Rangers line, Hartman dumped Trouba into the boards from behind, allowing the New York players to get a breather and fresh skaters for a power play. Talbot had to make a couple of big saves, and Jonas Brodin and Connor Dewar teamed up to break up a great scoring opportunity after a Matt Dumba turnover left Ryan Strome all alone in the top of the slot with the puck. The Wild killed off the power play, and followed up with some great opportunites on the next shift, the best of which coming from a Hartman shot that rang the pipe and deflected harmlessly into the corner.
Since making his debut earlier this month, Boldy has looked every bit of the pro the Wild thought they’d be getting when they took him in the first round. With his parents in attendance, Boldy had another strong effort all night long, earning an assist and pulling off skillful moves like this one late in the third...
With Shesterkin pulled, the Rangers put on the pressure, getting chance after chance either turned away by Talbot or just missing. With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Talbot made a save on a shot by Mika Zibanejad, and all hell broke loose. In the ensuing scrum, Strome pushed Talbot’s pad with his stick, which dislodged the puck enough for it to trickle across the line. The referee immediately whistled the play dead with 1.0 left on the clock and waved off the goal, claiming goaltender interference. After review, the call stood, much to the chagrin of the Rangers fans who politely disagreed by showering the ice with half-filled cans of beer.
In the end, the Wild managed to hold off the Rangers on Henrik’s night, earning a well deserved (and very much needed) two points, stretching their record to 7-0-1 over their last eight games. The Wild outshot the Rangers 34-27 on the night, and dominated the expected goals for percentage battle at 63-37%. But more than that, they made a statement that even after looking a little sleepy in the first period, they could hold their own against one of the NHL’s top teams - and should continue to be a tough out as the season progresses towards the playoffs.
The Wild’s four-game road trip will continue on Sunday evening as Minnesota will head across town to take on Zach Parise and the New York Islanders at 6 p.m.
Can Brodin make a difference on defense?
Jonas looked no worse for wear as he helped shut down the potent New York Rangers offense. Leading the defensemen with 24:00 TOI, Brodin had two shots, a block, and though he and Dumba finished minus-1 on the night, the goal scored against by Goodrow was off a broken play and not at all his fault. Brodin had one of his typical “if you’re not noticing him, he’s doing his job” kind of nights, and that’s exactly what you want from a shutdown defenseman. Brodin looked especially good on the final shift with the Rangers pressing to tie, making things difficult for New York in the waning minutes.
Will the Wild keep streaking on Broadway?
Streaking like the Naked Cowboy in Times Square. Lizard man Zuccarello had a goal and an assist to bring his points streak to 10 full games, and he’s now got multiple points in each of his last six. Fiala also saw his scoring streak reach double digits with a goal and an assist tonight, and Kaprizov’s sweet feed on Zuccarello’s power play tally makes it 18 points over his last 10 games.
Can the Wild take advanage on the power play?
That’s another big yes. Each team had two chances with the man advantage, but only the Wild were able to convert thanks to Zuccarello’s howitzer that tied the game in the second period.