Overcome: Wild falls asleep, falls 5-2 to Rangers
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Ever wake up from a nap to find out you missed something costly, that you can't get back again? That's likely the feeling the Minnesota Wild had after Saturday night's debacle.
The formerly red-hot Wild was out-shot 17-4 in the second period, giving up three goals in the process on the way to a 5-2 loss at the hands of the New York Rangers.
Not that getting out-shot over a 20-minute stretch was anything new or unique, at least recently. You'll recall the Wild managing to win its previous two games in overtime, despite Anaheim's 16-2 shot advantage in the third period on Wednesday. On Friday, the Wild survived an 18-3 shot onslaught in the second period to win in Detroit. But this time, there was no hot goalie to save them.
To be sure, Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves in the loss, but was overwhelmed by a Rangers club that used crisp passing to take advantage of Wild lapses. Ranger goals by Artem Anisimov and Michael Del Zotto in the second period were little more than tap-ins, set up when the visitors zipped pucks across the crease to get the Wild defense, and Backstrom, hopelessly out of position.
"In the end it was just too little, too late," said Matt Cullen, who scored short-handed in the third period, but is dumbfounded by the spate of 20-minute lapses. "As of late we've been finding ways to overcome it and come out with a win. Obviously tonight we dug ourselves too big of a hole, made too many mistakes in the second. That leads to penalties and that leads to a momentum swing. Tonight that was the story."
The first period was scoreless and still relatively eventful. The teams combined for 19 shots, and Cam Barker brought a good portion of the audience to cheers late in the period, when he leveled Marian Gaborik while the Wild's one-time star player was coming up ice with the puck.
Then, it all fell apart in the second, as the Rangers put a trio of goals on the board.
"Coming off a big, emotional win last night in Detroit, this is obviously disappointing," said Wild coach Todd Richards. His team had won six of its previous eight games, but had gained little headway in the Western Conference standings as a result. "Again it came down to not being consistent and playing for 60 minutes. The game got away from us. We weren't around in the second period. We tried to battle back in the third, and by then it was too late."
It's Gaborik's second season with the Rangers, but he was injured when the New Yorkers visited St. Paul last season, so this was his first appearance at Xcel Energy Center in an enemy sweater. He said the appearance before the fans that had cheered him for most of his career was on his mind.
"I was thinking about that for a while and I was quite frankly nervous before the game," said Gaborik, who had one assist in the game. "It was obviously something special to be on the other side here. I'm very happy with the way we performed."
The audience of 18,695 was just the third sellout in home 11 games for the Wild, but the only group that seemed truly entertained was a large contingent of Winnipeg Jets fans who drew huge cheers for assembling a "snake" of beer cups that stretched across several rows of seats in one corner of the lower bowl. Perhaps that's what you do when your team has been playing home games in Arizona for more than a decade.
The Wild have a three-day break before facing the Flyers on Wednesday night at home.