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Rangers can't catch break against Wild

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Forward Ruslan Fedotenko returned to the Rangers lineup from an injury on Thursday, but struggled along with his teammates to beat Minnesota goalie Jose Theodore, who ended the night with 40 saves.

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By Jim Cerny,

With the regular season winding down, the Rangers missed out on an opportunity to grab two points in the standings on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, as they were defeated by the Minnesota Wild 3-1.

The Rangers, 2-6-1 in their last nine games at MSG, will be looking to recapture their road success and get back on track in Ottawa where they face the Senators on Friday night. The Blueshirts have 19 road victories this season and have won their last two played away from The Garden.

“We come home from a great road trip, then lose all three at home,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “That’s really tough mentally. But we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to keep working to turn it around.”

Jose Theodore starred in goal for the Wild on Thursday, stopping 40 of 41 Blueshirt shots. Theodore had entered the game with a 12-3-2 record in his last 17 career starts against the Rangers, including an 8-0-1 run at MSG.

Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, the Rangers set out to vastly outplay the Wild over the first several minutes of the period. However, as has been the case recently, they had all kinds of trouble putting the puck past the opposing goalie, in this case Theodore, who robbed Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle from point-blank range in the opening minutes of the final period.

“We worked hard, but it’s the same thing,” said Brandon Dubinsky. “We generated chances, but we just didn’t find a way to bury them.”

The Wild, in turn, took advantage of a rare scoring chance of their own to open a two-goal lead 8:15 into the third. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the extremely important goal, whipping a shot from the slot past the gloved hand of Lundqvist to put the Rangers in a 3-1 hole.

Rangers rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh works to keep Minnesota's Antti Miettinen away from Henrik Lundqvist during the first period. McDonagh left the game early in the third period after twisting his knee. He is listed as day-to-day with the injury.
In stark contrast to recent games when they have struggled in the first period, the Rangers dominated the Wild in the opening stanza. However, they only had a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play to show for their great effort. The inability to score more than one goal came back to haunt them when the Wild rallied to score twice in the second to secure a 2-1 lead of their own heading into the final period of play.

“We have to find a way to put a few of our chances into the back of the net,” said Dubinsky. “Scoring that first goal was great, but we needed to score that second goal and we just couldn’t do it all night.”

So dominant were the Rangers in the first period that Minnesota did not record its first shot on goal until 17:45 had elapsed off the game clock. By that time, the Rangers had eight shots and, more importantly, had already grabbed an early 1-0 lead.

Sean Avery, who had gone 22 games without scoring a goal, one-timed a shot from the slot past Theodore just 3:13 into the game to give the Blueshirts the early lead they so coveted. Avery’s third goal of the season came off a pretty feed by Erik Christensen from behind the net. Christensen now has six points (3-3-6) in his last four games.

However, despite two power-play opportunities and complete control over all three zones of the ice, the Rangers could not put a second goal past Theodore, Minnesota’s backup goalie who started in the place of the struggling starter Nicklas Backstrom. The closest the Rangers came to doubling their advantage was at the 14:58 mark of the first when Theodore made a diving save with his arm on a point-blank attempt by Ryan Callahan.

The Wild settled themselves during the first intermission, and then proceeded to take advantage of their first power-play opportunity early in the second period to tie the game 1-1. With Christensen in the penalty box for high-sticking, Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak deflected a Jared Spurgeon slap shot past Lundqvist for his 14th goal, tying the game at 4:36.

Rangers forward Brandon Prust looks for a scoring chance in front of Minnesota goaltender Jose Theodore's crease but is held in check by Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky. The Wild clamped down defensively after taking a second-period lead.
Eight minutes later, the Wild took their first lead of the game when Casey Wellman beat Matt Gilroy to a Brent Burns pass in front and tipped the puck into the gaping cage for his first goal of the season. And despite firing 17 shots on goal in the second period, the Rangers could not dent Theodore and, thus, exited the ice down a goal heading to the third period.

“I felt pretty sharp, but I still gave up three goals,” said Lundqvist. “I have to be bigger on the deflections, just make myself bigger. These last couple of weeks the pucks have been bouncing and finding a way into our net. I have to be better.”

Marc Staal, who had missed the previous three games due to a sore knee, and Ruslan Fedotenko, whose sore shoulder caused him to be scratched the last two, both returned to the lineup for the Rangers on Thursday.

However, rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh suffered an undisclosed injury 4:24 into the third period and did not return to action. McDonagh attempted to intercept a pass in the neutral zone and seemed to collide with Brodziak. McDonagh was down on the ice for several minutes before heading to the bench under his own power.

“I didn’t feel too bad, better than I expected actually,” Staal said of his knee after the game. “And I don’t know what’s wrong (with McDonagh) or how bad it is or whatever, obviously bad enough for him not to come back, but that’s the way it’s been going with our team, just the way it’s been with injuries.”

Friday’s game in Ottawa will be followed by a clash with the Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon as the Rangers will have a chance to earn some points in the standings at the expense of their division rivals.
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