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Raanta hurt early, Rangers fall to Wild in first game of road trip

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Wild 12-17

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The same struggles that have been plaguing the Rangers (19-10-4) all season long were present again tonight in their 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild (17-7-6), the team’s ninth loss in the last 12 games.

Defensive breakdowns, minimal offense and sub-par goaltending were on full display tonight. Vigneault continues to fail to correct the mistakes that have been in just about every Rangers game since Thanksgiving.

The Wild had numerous breakaways, odd man rushes and wide open skaters because of missed coverages or poor decision making. Raanta and Lundqvist covered up a few of the mistakes, but they couldn’t stop everything.

Also, the Rangers were figuratively kicked in the gut with yet another injury. Antti Raanta was hit in the mask with a hard slap shot, forcing him to depart from the game and putting Henrik Lundqvist in on his night off. That was part of the reason for his sub-par performance. He made some really nice saves, but allowed a few weak ones as well.

The Rangers opened the period really strong, limiting much of the Wild’s possession and shot attempts. Keith Yandle drew a penalty shot just 49 seconds into the period after he joined the rush and was hooked on the breakaway. However, Devan Dubnyk stayed patient and made the glove save.

From that point on, neither team really generated much of an attack. The Rangers were especially quiet, with the Minnesota Wild clogging up the neutral zone, forcing turnovers and preventing rushes.

One of those turnovers, courtesy of Viktor Stalberg, wound up in the back of the net. The puck was intercepted at the blue line and wound up with Thomas Vanek behind the net. Oscar Lindberg drifted towards the boards and away from the front of the net, leaving Mikko Koivu all alone and with space to make a deke and backhand the puck past Raanta, giving him his seventh goal of the season and goals in three straight games.

Later in the period, Antti Raanta took a slap shot to the helmet, right in the middle of the forehead area. Raanta went down, clearly in some pain, and he wound up heading into the locker room. Henrik Lundqvist replaced him for the final 6:11 of the period, making his eighth career relief appearance and his first since October of 2013.

Lundqvist didn’t have much work, but was nearly scored on by Nino Niederreiter after a lively bounce off of the boards. Dubnyk’s best save came on a JT Miller deflection in front of the net. No more goals were scored and the Wild held a 1-0 lead with the shots even at five goals apiece.

The second period was much more offensive, with both teams getting multiple scoring chances. Devan Dubnyk was sharp, but Henrik Lundqvist played even better, turning aside 14 of the 15 shots that he faced. It was announced that Antti Raanta would not return to the bench.

Henrik’s best save came on the captain, Mikko Koivu looking for his second goal of the game. Koivu had a chance to sling a wrist shot on net from about 10 feet away, but Lundqvist reacted quickly and stuck up a glove to keep the game at 1-0.

The Wild would take a tripping penalty, and each team came really close to finding the back of the net. A long shot from Kevin Hayes trickled through the pads of Dubnyk and was heading towards the goal, but Jonas Brodin swept it out of the crease. Then Justin Fontaine hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway.

Minnesota would eventually break through and score their second goal of the game, scoring on the power play after Dan Boyle was called for hooking. Niederreiter was positioned in front of the net, taking the puck and quickly turning before sending a shot on net, forcing a save from Lundqvist. Defenseman Matt Dumba was on the doorstep to bat the puck out of midair and double the Wild’s lead.

But just before the period ended, with just nine seconds remaining, Dominic Moore scored his first goal in 14 games, cutting the lead to one. It all started with Henrik making a blocker save on Jason Zucker, allowing the puck to go the other way.

Tanner Glass forced a turnover on the forecheck with a big hit, passing it off to Emerson Etem along the boards. Etem looked up and spotted Moore in the slot, sending him a great backhand pass that Moore deposited in the back of the net.

Moore’s third goal of the season snapped Dubnyk’s 160+ minute shutout streak and cut the Wild lead to one goal. Minnesota led in shots, 20-14.

From the start of the third period, Jason Pominville was extremely active. First, he beat Marc Staal on the boards and skated into the zone alone, sending a shot off of the crossbar. Shortly after that, he made an excellent pass to Zach Parise which was redirected just wide.

After Brady Skjei took a penalty for holding, the floodgates opened. Jason Pominville finally cashed in, taking a great lead pass from Koivu and hitting the post with another shot. However, he was luckier this time, with the puck deflecting off of Lundqvist’s back and into the net. The Wild jumped out to a 3-1 lead.

But :40 later, Minnesota scored again. Ryan Carter surprised Henrik Lundqvist with a backhand shot, catching the Rangers’ netminder cheating off of the post. The shot went off of his shoulder and into the net, giving the Wild a 4-1 lead.

The Rangers really had almost nothing going for them, but did manage to score a goal with under four minutes to play. Jesper Fast passed the puck from the boards to JT Miller in the middle of the ice. He controlled it with his skate and passed it off to the hometown boy, Ryan McDonagh, who sent the one-timer past Dubnyk, cutting the lead to two goals.

But the defense collapsed and the Wild scored again. McDonagh was hit hard along the boards and turned the puck over. Lundqvist was forced to make an excellent pad save on Carter, but nobody was in front of the net to pick up Koivu as he tapped the loose puck into the net.

As the clock ticked down, the Rangers succumbed to more mistakes and defensive lapses and skated away with another disappointing loss.

The Rangers are really, really struggling. They’ve won just three of their last 12 games (3-7-2), they have lost six straight games on the road (0-4-2) and haven’t won a road game since November 21st. They’re giving up a lot of goals, the defense is breaking down and the forwards aren’t picking up the slack.

Speaking of the offense, what the heck were they doing tonight? The Rangers mustered just 23 shots on goal. That’s it. The Wild had 35 on goal. New York continues to come out night after night and get outshot, out-possessed and out-chanced. It’s sickening and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The only bright spot tonight and in the last few losses has been the play of the fourth line. The trio of Glass-Moore-Etem has been absolutely fantastic as of late. Dominic Moore scored a goal, breaking his goalless drought, and Glass and Etem picked up the assists. They have done exactly what they’re supposed to, and they’re contributing more offense than some of the “scoring” forwards on the team. *cough* Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes *cough*

The Rangers are back at it tomorrow night against the Winnipeg Jets in Dylan McIlrath’s homecoming game.

THREE STARS

  • Dominic Moore – 1 G, +1, 3 SOG, 14:25 TOT
  • Tanner Glass – 1 A, +1, 1 SOG, 12:46 TOT
  • Emerson Etem – 1 A, +1, 4 SOG, 11:50 TOT
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Posted on December 18, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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