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Rangers halt Wild streak at five

New York responds quickly after Vanek ties it as Minnesota falls 3-2

Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek ties the game for the Wild early in the third but the New York Rangers would respond less than a minute later and go on to win 3-2 on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

New York responds quickly after Vanek ties it as Minnesota falls 3-2

St. Paul — In his brief time with the Wild, Thomas Vanek has proven himself to be a polarizing figure. Fans either love him or hate him and sometimes both within the same game.

Thursday night was one of those nights for Vanek after a crucial early turnover in the first, a momentum-killing and power-play-negating penalty in the second and a game-tying goal in the third.

Vanek scored his 21st goal of the year, and team-leading 12th goal since the All-Star break, at 5:53 of the third period to complete Minnesota’s comeback from a two goal, first-period deficit.

But New York Rangers’ J.T. Miller answered 55 seconds later and the Eastern Conference’s top team escaped Xcel Energy Center with a 3-2 win in front of 19, 244.

“We didn’t really find our game until the start of the second and I think after that we slowly took over,” Vanek said. “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t have kept it tied for a little bit longer, I think we would have got the next one.”

Ranger captain, and St. Paul native, Ryan McDonagh fired a shot from just inside the blue line where an uncovered Miller deflected it past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk for his 10th of the season.

“It’s one quick play and they do a good job of getting a tip on a stick,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “In those situations we’ve got to do a better job of coming [into the defensive zone] and, once that puck gets back to the point, making sure we’re boxing guys out.”

The victory clinched the Metropolitan Division title for the Rangers and home ice through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Matt Dumba assisted on both Minnesota goals and Jason Pominville scored his first goal in 10 games for the Wild who lost for just the second time in nine games to snap a five-game winning streak. Dubnyk allowed three goals on 26 shots to suffer just his seventh loss (26-7-1) in a Minnesota uniform.

Trailing 2-0 after one period, the Wild got off to a flying start to open the second and got on the board just short of the six minute mark on Pominville’s 17th goal of the season. Matt Dumba carried the puck in deep and threw the puck to Zach Parise whose shot through the crease caromed off of Pominville’s skate at 5:54.

When New York’s Carl Hagelin tripped the Wild’s Justin Fontaine two minutes later, the momentum was all Minnesota’s as it headed to its first power play of the night.

But just 48 seconds later, Vanek was tagged for interference, negating the power play and beginning a string of five penalties over the period’s final 11 minutes.

“It’s not the perfect recipe when you’re coming from behind,” Yeo said about the Wild’s revolving penalty box door. “In that situation we did what we had to do, we gave ourselves a chance.”

To its credit, as Yeo said, the Minnesota’s penalty killers held the Rangers to just one goal on six power-play opportunities including a two man advantage in the period’s final minute when Kyle Brodziak, playing without a stick, and Marco Scandella provided critical shot blocks.

“Brodz is a guy who’s been sacrificing himself all season long as far as the way he plays the game, the way he sticks up for his teammates, the way he blocks shots,” Yeo said. “It’s tough to see those types of things on T.V. o maybe from the stands, but the lift that give to the rest of the bench, that’s a huge momentum builder.”

Coming off of a four-day layoff between games, the Wild trailed 1-0 just over two minutes into the game courtesy of a Vanek defensive -zone turnover.

Facing the wall outside the right circle, Vanek backhanded a blind cross-ice pass which New York’s Carl Hagelin promptly picked off. Hagelin fired toward the Minnesota net where former Wild center Dominic Moore redirected the puck past Dubnyk at the 2:09 mark of the first.

“It was a little bit of a slow start,” Yeo said. “A good team, a pressure team like that, will recognize that and I think they took advantage of it but, for the most part, I think we found our game after that.”

“That’s a good team,” Vanek said of the Rangers. “They started quick and we were a little bit on our heels, it took us a little bit to get going, but there’s no excuse there.”

The Rangers extended the lead to 2-0 at 14:37 on Rick Nash’s 41st goal of the year, a sharp angle shot from along the goal line to Dubnyk’s right just 22 seconds after Minnesota’s Justin Fontaine was sent off for high-sticking. It’s one Dubnyk said he would like to have back.

“It was kind of a strange play,” Dubnyk said. “I think the puck flipped up on his blade and he just went to shovel it across and it hit me on the inside of the hand. I think if that puck stays flat, it’s probably not coming that high.”

Minnesota Hockey Magazine Executive Editor Brian Halverson is a former member of the Minnesota Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. His work has been published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Miami Herald, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Hartford Courant, Dallas Morning News and

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