Minnesota Wild prospects got off to perhaps their best start of the tournament but were unable to hold off Jimmy Vesey late in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in the final round-robin game of the NHL Prospect Tournament on Monday in Traverse City, Michigan.
Christoph Bertschy scored the lone goal for Minnesota at 12:37 of the first period, zipping a shot from the high slot through traffic and past Rangers goaltender Joseph Raaymakers, giving the Wild a 1-0 lead after one period.
“It’s tough because it’s a short tournament with no practice time. You ask the guys to buy into a process and improve, and improve in certain areas, and they did that,” said Iowa coach Derek Lalonde, who is serving as the Wild’s head coach in the tournament. “That contributed to, by far, our best first and second period.”
But an inability to expand that lead ended up haunting the Wild later in the game.
Vesey got the Rangers on the board with his first of two goals late in the second period, finishing off an odd-man rush by getting a piece of Boo Nieves’ centering feed and deflecting it over the shoulder of Wild goaltender Steve Michalek.
Minnesota outshot New York 24-16 through two periods.
“We had the 1-0 lead, in the first period, we out-chanced them 2-to-1 and then we had a lot of chances to extend our lead to 2-0, we don’t, and we kind of let them hang around,” Lalonde said. “We certainly had our looks; maybe we need to be a little more poised, maybe a little harder in the scoring areas. Their goalie deserves some of the credit but we certainly were in position to extend that lead to 2-0.”
The Rangers made a push early in the third but were stifled, at least momentarily, by Michalek, who finished with 22 saves in the game.
Alex Petan had a great scoring chance off the rush with under two minutes remaining in the game but Raaymakers was there for the stop.
Seconds later, Vesey scored his winner on a wrap-around try with 34.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
“One of their very special, difference-maker type players was just that,” Lalonde said.
The Wild finished round robin play 0-3 and in fourth place in the Ted Lindsay Division. They will conclude the tournament on Tuesday in the seventh-place game at 2 p.m. CST against the fourth-place team in the Gordie Howe Division.
“Game 1 and Game 3 were very similar in that we’ve played some good hockey, we’re tied late in both games,” Lalonde said. “We’ve got to find a way to flip that type of game.”