There is one stat, aside from the final score, that speaks volumes in this game. The Rangers forced the Minnesota Wild into 18 turnovers. This is just one game after the Rangers committed 16 turnovers against the Islanders, so they got the message. Of course, it took about ten minutes into the first period for them to get that message.
The Rangers forced turnovers by pressuring the puck on the forecheck, something we had seen against Calgary and Pittsburgh earlier last week. They didn’t have many defensive miscues, although one did lead to the lone Wild goal. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a much-needed win.
On to the goals:
Wild 1, Rangers 0
Both Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider blew the coverage from the opening face off, giving Ryan Suter all day to walk down the far boards looking for a play. That play came when John Moore was unable to completely tie up Jason Pominville in front. Suter made a perfect pass, hitting Pominville’s tape for the point-blank goal.
Rangers 1, Wild 1
Brassard, Brad Richards, Mats Zuccarello all made great plays to fend off all four Minnesota penalty killers at the near boards and maintain possession on the powerplay. Brass was able to get the puck across to the weak side point man in Ryan McDonagh. None of the four Wild players were able to recover in time to cover Benoit Pouliot down low, and McDonagh just hit him with a perfect pass for the tip in. Very quietly, Pouliot has been one of the better Ranger skaters over the past five games or so.
Rangers 2, Wild 1
McDonagh was able to find Brian Boyle right out of the penalty box for the zone entry. Derek Dorsett and Carl Hagelin joined him on the rush with four Wild players back. Dorsett eventually attempted a cross-ice pass to Hagelin, but it was off target. Keith Ballard was able to poke the puck away, but he poked it right to Hagelin, who beat Niklas Backstrom.
Rangers 3, Wild 1
Brassard had a very strong game here, and this goal was all him. He made a very nice end-to-end rush, circled behind the net, and fed Zuccarello in the slot for the goal. Zucc was wide open in front, finding open ice between four Wild defenders. I guess his small stature made him difficult for Minnesota to locate on the ice?
Rangers 4, Wild 1
Rick Nash forced a neutral zone turnover, and Chris Kreider simply used his speed to burn past the defense for the chance. Kreider’s hands were whacked a bit as he was shooting, which led to him fanning on the shot. Backstrom simply botched the change of pace and the puck slid right through his legs.
As expected, the chart shows the exact flow of the game. The Rangers struggled for the first ten minutes of the first, and Minnesota really controlled play. After that, the ice tilted in New York’s favor and that blue line just kept rising. There were a lot of stretches in the second and third periods where the red line was flat (no shot attempts) for an extended period of time. By the end of the game, the Rangers had a 61.2% Fenwick (missed shots+SOG) advantage.
You may look at the standings, see Minnesota out of the playoffs, and think that this was a win against a bad team. But let’s remember that if Minnesota was in the Metropolitan Division, they would be in second place. This was a solid team win against a strong team. It was the first time where we saw all 12 forwards and all 6 defensemen play solid games. The baby steps made against Calgary and Pittsburgh –and the turnover fest against the Islanders– culminated in this very strong performance. This is a win they can build on.