Recap: Rangers Drop Homestand Opener to Wildby Michael Obernauer / NYRangers.com
If there was to be any comeback from the Rangers in this one, it went down in a heap right along with Brady Skjei.
An uncalled trip on Skjei in the third period of a one-goal game led directly to the Minnesota insurance goal that effectively put the Rangers away in a 4-1 loss to the Wild on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Pavel Buchnevich scored for the third time in five games for the Rangers, but apart from that, Devan Dubnyk stopped the Rangers' 33 other shots on goal to help Minnesota snap its five-game skid and win for just the second time in its last 11 games (2-6-3).
Tony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome each assisted on the Buchnevich tally, DeAngelo making it five consecutive games with an assist, while Strome picked up a point for the fifth time in his last six games (1-4-5).
The Wild got goals from Jared Spurgeon, Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise and Jordan Greenway - Greenway's goal coming with the Ranger net empty, and Parise's coming on a play that in reality never should have occurred.
Down by a goal in the third period, the Rangers were looking to repeat their feat from two nights earlier in Carolina and shake off a sluggish first 40 minutes and win a third period. But just past the midway point of the frame, as he carried a puck out of the corner in the Rangers' zone, Skjei had his feet chopped out by a prone Eric Staal, and watched the puck carry straight to Parise by his lonesome in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Parise calmly steered the puck around the surprised Lundqvist and roofed a backhander to make it a 3-1 game with 8:57 to play.
To be fair, the referee who missed it, Wes McCauley, was working by himself after his partner, Francois St-Laurent, had to leave the game in the second period. Also, David Quinn added one more caveat:
"The way we played? I don't think it made a difference," the coach said.
His players echoed his sentiment. "It's tough when you get that goal," Lundqvist said of the Parise tally. "I think a one-goal game, that time on the clock, it felt like we were right there. But make it a two-goal game, you could just feel the game slip away.
"But at the same time, we should have put ourselves in a better spot earlier."
And so the Rangers began a stretch with five out of six games on home ice unable to make it three wins out of the last four at the Garden, where they dropped to 15-10-6. They did so with Lias Andersson back in their lineup for the first time since Dec. 27 - the 20-year-old was summoned from Hartford earlier in the day, and his line, with Filip Chytil and Connor Brickley flanking him, was probably the Rangers' best early on - but they also did it without Adam McQuaid from the end of the first period on. Quinn said McQuaid's upper-body issue was enough that the Rangers made the decision to shut him down for the night.
"He's fine," the coach said.
He left almost directly from the penalty box, where he was sitting when Jared Spurgeon opened the scoring 15:04 into the game. It came after the Wild worked a smooth side-to-side passing play, which ended with Lundqvist robbing Eric Staal with the catching glove - one of Lundqvist's 31 saves on the night - but the rebound sitting on the goal line and Spurgeon reaching it before Neal Pionk could tie him up, Minnesota's 39th goal this season by a defenseman, most in the NHL.
For the Wild, who had been shut out in each of their last two games coming in, the goal was their first in 171:04 of game time. Ryan Donato, the 22-year-old making his debut for Minnesota after being acquired in a trade with Boston on Wednesday, picked up the secondary assist for his pass over to Eric Staal.
The Wild appeared to make it a two-goal game just 49 seconds later, on an in-front tip by Joel Eriksson Ek, but Quinn pulled out his first offside challenge of the season, and won it - it was Eriksson Ek himself who was a stride too far over the blue line to start the play.
Video: MIN@NYR: Buchnevich knots score with PPG
And so the Rangers drew even on a power play of their own, 5:06 into the middle period. After Vlad Namestnikov drew a tripping call on Jordan Greenway, Buchnevich settled DeAngelo's pass with his skate at the right circle, then pump-faked Dubnyk to the ice before smacking one through the goalpads. It was Buchnevich's third goal and fifth point in five games, while DeAngelo became the 10th Ranger this season to hit the 20-point mark.
Granlund got the lead back for the visitors at 8:41, roofing a rebound on a delayed penalty as he was being hauled down by Kevin Shattenkirk, after Lundqvist had fought traffic to keep out Greg Pateryn's blue-line blast.
That 2-1 score held until the third, when Quinn made the rare move of splitting his scorching top line, swapping Chris Kreider and Jimmy Vesey in a search for a spark. "I was looking for something different," Quinn said. "The way things were going for most of our lines, and our game in general, I just thought, we'll try something different."
It nearly paid immediate dividends: Mika Zibanejad had Dubnyk beat from the right wing but caught the goalpost just a quarter-minute into the period, and then Strome just missed tying it off a rebound of Namestnikov's shot, when he had his stick checked by Greenway just as he was pulling the trigger.
"We didn't give up. We kept playing and had a few more chances to get back in the game," said Skjei. "But obviously that was a big play."
"That" was in reference to the trip that wasn't called, and Parise's good fortune to pick up his 24th goal of the season and 17th in 53 games against the Rangers.
"I couldn't really tell when it happened, I was just surprised he lost control of the puck, and it ends up on (Parise's) stick," Lundqvist said. "He made a fake, and I need to just stop - it's just hard when you get surprised like that to be in a good position.
"Watching the replay, it should be a call. But it is what it is."
The Rangers had one more window to make it a tight finish, when with 7:33 to play Vesey was cut by the stick of his former Harvard teammate Donato, drawing a double minor. And Quinn brought Lundqvist to the bench with 4:25 left for a brief 6-on-4, but after the Wild completed the kill - Dubnyk denied Vesey on two separate chances from in close - Donato and Eric Staal combined again, this time to set up Greenway, who played for Quinn at BU last season, for an empty-net tap-in and the 10th goal of his rookie season.
The Rangers return to their Metropolitan Division slate on Saturday afternoon when the Devils pay their first visit this season to Madison Square Garden.