All is Well(man): Wild beats Rangers 3-1 in Manhattan
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One night after the hockey equivalent of getting booed off the stage, the Minnesota Wild brought its act to Broadway and earned rave reviews.
Playing a more familiar defense-first style, the Wild snapped a two-game losing streak and added a vital two points to the season ledger, rallying from a first period deficit for a 3-1 win versus the New York Rangers.
Most impressive for the Wild was the late addition of Casey Wellman to the lineup - a move which paid off immediately. Wellman, who had not played an NHL game since November, when the Wild faced the Rangers the last time, skated for the Houston Aeros on Wednesday night, then flew to Manhattan early Thursday and was in uniform at Madison Square Garden when the puck dropped.
In the second period, after Kyle Brodziak tied the game early in the second period by tipping in a Jared Spurgeon shot, Wellman made the Ranger fans take notice of his reappearance on an NHL rink. Wellman got behind the Rangers defense on a kind of back door play, re-directing a shot by Brent Burns for the eventual game-winner.
"Casey came up and scored a huge goal for us, the game-winning goal, and provided a little bit of spark, which we needed," said Wild coach Todd Richards
Pierre-Marc Bouchard added an insurance goal in the third period, his seventh point in the last six games. But with the Wild managing fewer than 20 shots on goal for the game, this was not a night about offense. At the other end of the rink, Jose Theodore got the start in goal for the Wild and stopped 40 shots for the win. After the normally rock-solid Niklas Backstrom allowed seven goals in a little more than four periods of work during the Wild's brief losing streak, it's worth some speculation that there may be a goaltending battle brewing.
Of course, for Theodore, success in the Big Apple was nothing new. He improved to 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts at Madison Square Garden, where he made dominance of the Rangers a habit during his time as a Washington Capital.
"I feel comfortable with where my game is, and I feel comfortable playing behind these guys. I know what they're going to do," Theodore told Kevin Gorg of FSN North after the game. "They're clearing the puck and letting me see the puck so some nights even if we have 40 shots against, I see it all the way and that makes it easier."
For the time being, the Wild are back in the playoff picture, tied with Calgary and Los Angeles with 74 points, although the Wild does not own the tiebreaker versus either team. The Kings play later Thursday night, with Dustin Penner making his debut in purple.
The Wild was out-shot once again, something that never bothers the coach as long as hard work provides the team with a chance to win.
"We weren't perfect. I know I say that a lot," Richards said. "But guys played hard and when you play hard and do it consistently, a lot of times you get rewarded. Tonight we played hard against a good team and got a win."
The Wild returns home to host Buffalo on Sunday.