ST. PAUL, Minn. – It appeared that Henrik Lundqvist might be suffering the indignity of being pulled for the fourth time in eight games. This was about to go off the rails for the Rangers very quickly, but they managed to steady themselves and keep their heads in the game as they’d done in the previous two since The Memo declaring the Rangers’ rebuild was released and keep Lundqvist in goal.
This time the Rangers’ fight wasn’t enough. They chipped away at a three-goal deficit but fell short of completing a comeback Tuesday night in a 3-2 loss to the Wild.
Kevin Hayes’ power-play goal at 11:46 of the second brought the Rangers within one. Minnesota native Neal Pionk blocked a shot and jump-started a three-on-one rush. Hayes’ shot was deflected by Jared Spurgeon and the puck found its way through Devan Dubnyk. Pionk’s assist was the first point of his NHL career.
Carelessness with the puck over the opening seven minutes of the game saw the Rangers quickly go down 3-0 and show why they’re rebuilding. Nick Holden intercepted a pass at the red line but then had the puck poked away by one-time Ranger Eric Staal, who scored on the game’s first shot at 3:09.
Henrik Lundqvist gives up a goal in the first period.
Just 1:25 later, a shockingly bad play by Rick Nash led to Minnesota’s second goal. He tried to pass cross-ice deep in his own zone, but the pass was blocked by Zach Parise near the crease and the puck snuck by Lundqvist near side. Nine seconds after a television timeout Marcus Foligno added to the Wild’s lead after Brady Skjei couldn’t corral a loose puck.
That prompted Alain Vigneault to have backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev, called up from Hartford Saturday with Ondrej Pavelec (MCL sprain) out two-to-three weeks, prepare to enter the game. But the Rangers picked up a power play at 7:29, so Vigneault held off on pulling Lundqvist, seemingly to see if the Blueshirts could swing the momentum.
John Gilmour then netted his first career NHL goal and point on a one-time blast at 8:50, and Lundqvist remained in the game.
Marcus Foligno celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period.
(Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
For the third straight game Skjei took on a heavy workload with Ryan McDonagh (upper body) sidelined, and this stretch provides a glimpse at what a McDonagh-less roster could mean for Skjei’s future in the event of a potential McDonagh trade.
Skjei’s sophomore season hasn’t seen him take the step he hoped for after an impressive rookie campaign, but recently in the do-it-all No. 1 defenseman role on the top pair, first power-play unit and first penalty-killing group, Skjei has made some progress while bearing greater responsibility.
“It’s kind of nice when you’re in the game and playing those minutes,” Skjei, a native of Lakeville, Minn., said before the game. “I don’t want to say it makes it easier, but you just feel like you’re in a flow. I feel like the last couple of games I’ve definitely stepped up and improved since the weeks before that.”
- Join the Conversation: