By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Ryan McDonagh made sure that the first NHL game he ever played in his hometown of St. Paul would be a memorable one Tuesday night. With the score between the Rangers and Wild tied 2-2 late in the third period at the Xcel Energy Center, McDonagh aggressively carried the puck on left wing in the offensive zone before firing a perfect pass to Ruslan Fedotenko standing alone in the low slot, and Fedotenko whipped the puck into a gaping cage with 6:23 left to play in regulation, lifting the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Wild.
The assist was the second for McDonagh in the game; and the goal was Fedotenko's ninth of the season. Henrik Lundqvist helped set the stage for Fedotenko's game-winner a few minutes prior by making clutch point-blank saves on Minnesota's Dany Heatley and Devin Setogucchi.
The win---coupled with Pittsburgh's 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday---pushed the Rangers lead over the Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference to three points with six games to play.
Special teams played a major factor as to why the Rangers and Wild were tied 2-2 after 40 minutes of play, even though the visitors controlled large stretches of play over the first two periods. That the Rangers were 0-for-4 on the power play and the Wild were a perfect 2-for-2 evened the playing field on the scoreboard through two periods.
Brian Boyle scored the only goal of the first period, netting his eighth of the season ---and second in three games---by charging through the crease to bury the rebound of Brandon Dubinsky's shot which had caromed off of the goal post at the 11:23 mark. However the Rangers failed to add to their one-goal advantage by not scoring on any of their three first-period power plays, and that came back to haunt them early in the second period.
With Boyle in the penalty box for a delay of game penalty, Kyle Brodziak netted his 20th goal, gaining position on Ryan McDonagh in front to score off a rebound of Cal Clutterbuck's shot at 3:05 of the second period.
Marian Gaborik, though, was able to score his team-high 38th goal of the season at 7:58 to restore the Rangers one-goal lead with an even-strength tally from the low slot. The goal was clearly a sweet one for Gaborik, returning to Minnesota as a Ranger and as the Wild's all-time leader in goals, assists, and points.
Then at 11:52 of the second period---with Marc Staal off for an interference penalty---Wild captain Mikko Koivu wristed a right wing shot past Lundqvist for another Minnesota power play goal, evening the score 2-2.