I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics. Blogging between diaper changes.
Entering their second game of a back-to-back looking to rebound off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, the Rangers took on a skidding Minnesota Wild team tonight, losers of three straight. Steven Kampfer and Tanner Glass, both of whom were recently recalled from the Hartford Wolf Pack, were announced as late scratches as Adam Clendening and Pavel Buchnevich both drew back into the line-up.
It was mostly a Wild-controlled game to start as Minnesota outshot the Blueshirts 9-5 by the halfway point of the first period. That included two prime opportunities from ex-Rangers forward Eric Staal, as well as Jason Zucker, but Raanta came up big to keep the game scoreless early. With 9:09 to go in the first, the Wild drew the game’s first penalty as the Rangers were caught with too many men on the ice.
They would face a tough Rangers special teams group, however, as the Rangers are eighth in the NHL in penalty killing on the road this season. Martin Hanzal, who missed the last few games with strep throat appeared to score on a deflected shot from the point, but the goal was waved off as the replay showed the puck never entered the net. It struck the outside which caused the Wild players to celebrate prematurely. Raanta came up big again on the ensuing play stopping an Eric Staal centering feed that nearly met the streaking Wild forward on the weak side.
However, with just 7:06 to go, just as the power play was ending, Eric Staal burned his old team to draw first blood. Hanzal found him wide open in the slot and Staal beat Raanta to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.
Charlie Coyle soon drew the second penalty of the game – a hooking call on Brendan Smith with 6:26 left to play in the first. The Rangers penalty kill stood strong, however, and even threatened short-handed, forcing Dubnyk to make a fantastic save on Jesper Fast with a little more than five minutes to go in the period.
Moments later, Minnesota native Brady Skjei sprung Grabner on another short-handed attempt, this time a give-and-go that Dubnyk was also able to keep out despite some chaos in the crease. The play was reviewed, but the puck never appeared to cross the goal line.
With just 3:49 to go in the period, Skjei tied the game. Mats Zuccarello found him open at the top of the right circle and delivered Skjei a perfect one-time pass to beat Dubnyk.
Both clubs would exit the first frame with a goal a piece.
The Rangers opened the second period with much of the same intensity they closed the first with. Oscar Lindberg, who along with the fourth line would become a theme of the game, nearly extended the lead 2-1 early on. J.T. Miller also missed a possible lead-extending opportunity as Stepan found him streaking with a little more than five minutes played but the puck skipped over his stick negating the scoring chance.
Soon after, the Wild came close to regaining the lead as Erik Haula and Charlie Coyle came in on a two-on-one but Coyle chipped the puck wide after Haula slid it past a sprawling Nick Holden. Antti Raanta ended up losing his skate blade in the process which gave the Rangers a short reprieve as he had it repaired.
The Rangers would answer this pressure from the Wild as Lindberg gave the Rangers the first lead of the game at 7:46 of the second period. Miller won a loose puck battle behind the net and sent a backhand centering pass to Lindberg, who was open in the slot. Lindberg misfired on the shot, sending the puck sliding on the ice, but it was enough to beat Dubnyk.
Shortly after Brendan Smith was able to break up a two-on-one attempt from the Wild with 9:25 to go, Jimmy Vesey made it 3-1. Pavel Buchnevich took a bad angle shot from the half boards that Dubnyk gave up a rebound on. Vesey picked it up on his backhand and took it forehand to beat Dubnyk blocker side with 2:26 to go in the period. Vesey’s original shot on the play seemed to stun Dubnyk who simply never recovered in time.
With 1:15 left before the second intermission, Eric Staal took a slashing penalty to send the Rangers to their first power play, though nothing was made of it before the buzzer.
The Rangers opened the third and final frame on the power play but failed to capitalize on extending their lead. Instead, Matt Dumba scored his ninth goal of the season less than five minutes into the period to bring the Wild within one. Dumba snuck into the play on the weak side of the ice slamming home a rebound off a Zach Parise scoring attempt in the crease. Raanta was able to stop Parise, but couldn’t get across in time to stop Dumba, too.
Fortunately for the Rangers, it wouldn’t be enough. Antti Raanta would stand tall through the remainder of the period, including a late desperation sequence in which Dubnyk was pulled for an extra attacker, and the Blueshirts went on to win the game by a 3-2 score.
The Rangers next game is Tuesday night in Newark, New Jersey as they take on the lowly New Jersey Devils.
The Rangers won their league-leading 26th road victory tonight; Two rookies, Brady Skjei and Jimmy Vesey, both scored tonight; Brady Skjei (33 points) is second in scoring among rookie defenders in the NHL this season; Antti Raanta won his 15th game of the season tonight.