The Minnesota Wild Minnesota Wild beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on home ice Thursday night. Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper led his team to victory, allowing just a single goal, on 30 shots at the Xcel Energy Center. This wasn’t the prettiest win they Wild have had but, they all count the same two points in the standings. Minnesota now leads the Phoenix Coyotes by 6 points and the Dallas Stars by 5 points in the Western Conference Wild Card race. The Wild scored single goals in the 1st and 3rd periods while the Rangers put up a goal in the 2nd, that was the extent of scoring Thursday night. Darcy Kuemper was once again spectacular in goal for the Wild and raised his record to 12-4-2, with a .922 save % and a goals against average down to 2.25. This was the 4th time Kumper has bounced back from a loss to win the next game. He had several big saves in the last 15 minutes of the 2nd and all of the 3rd period to keep the Rangers off the score board. The only goal Kuemper surrendered was to the Minnesota native from Hastings Derek Stepan. That goal came on a screen shot through a maze of bodies and was in the back of the net before the Wild’s net minder could react. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo in his post games comments said, “Getting wins this time of year and finding ways to to win games like this,we’re gonna have a lot of games that don’t feel perfect at the end of the game. We’re going to be playing a lot of desperate teams and we’re going to have to expect to be very good every night.” Coach Yeo added, “I expect to see a lot of close games down the stretch and being able to find a way to win, being comfortable playing in your own zone when you’re up a goal late in the third period. Being able to have the right focus, being able to do the right thing, those are important things for our team.”
The Wild goal scorers Thursday night were Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise whose 1st and 3rd period goals bracketed a 2nd period marker by Stepan for the Rangers. The first goal came at 13:08 of the opening period. Kyle Brodziak‘s forecheck at hit behind the net led to the Ranger’s Rick Nash misplaying the puck sending it right up the slot and onto the tape of Niederreiter. The Wild winger wound up and snapped at shot from just 10 feet out past New York’s Cam Talbot before the net minder could react. The lone assist on the play went to Brodziak. That was one thing the Wild needed to do in order to take the two points Thursday night. This game turned into a tight checking affair, as both teams found it difficult to generate much offense and some sloppy play by both squads helped the two defenses limit scoring opportunities. The second Wild goal of the evening was scored by Zach Parise after a wild scramble in front of the New York and just 1:03 into the 3rd period. Mikael Granlund drove hard to the net drawing the Ranger defenders toward him. His initial shot was stopped but Jason Pominvill got his stick on the puck at the top of the crease and took two solid whacks at it that were both stopped by New York net minder Talbot. Zach Parise came down the slot and picked up the rebound and flipped it past the sprawling goalie for the score. That goal would prove to be the game winner but not until the Rangers had totaled 16 shots on goal in the 3rd. period.
For the game the Rangers out shot the Wild 30 to 26, both of those totals are close to the teams shot per game average this season. The New York goal came on a power play, the only man advantage score of the night. Both teams had just three power plays, all 2 minute minors, for the entire game. New York mounted a furious effort late in the third period, pulling goal tender Talbot with 1:39 left on the clock. Even with the extra attacker the Rangers couldn’t even things up on the score board. The advantage became even greater when Ryan Suter broke his stick and spent most of the last minute of play sliding blocking, hitting and kicking the puck away from Ranger players. Perhaps no one in the Xcel Energy center was happier when Wild goalie Kuemper gloved the puck with just .40 seconds remaining on the clock. A puck drop and the game was over and the wild had secured two more points in the Central Division standings. In his post game remarks Wild Coach Yeo said, “When you’re playing the game the right way, a different guy gets to be the hero every night.”
Thursday night was a big win for the Wild as they broke a a 3 game winless streak with one game remaining in this four game homestand. Minnesota then goes on a three game east coast Eastern Conference road trip playing the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils before a home and home series with the Detroit Red Wings.
The Wild have the rest of Thursday night to enjoy this win then it’s back to practice before facing the Blue Jackets on Saturday night. I’ll be back with a preview of Minnesota vs Colombus Saturday morning. Until then this is Scott Drain victoriously shouting, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’S GO WILD!!”