It was Miller Time again at The Garden. J.T. Miller stayed hot as he helped lead the Rangers to a big 4-2 comeback win over the Wild. After a disappointing first period that saw them fall behind 2-0 on Minnesota goals from Ryan Carter (breakaway) and Matthew Dumba (power play), the Rangers responded with a dominant second period. They outscored the Wild 2-0 on goals from Ryan McDonagh (7th) and Miller (16th), also outshooting them 17-4.
”This was a huge test for us to see where we were as a team,” Miller said after scoring for the eighth time in his last eight games. ”We’ve been up and down with the wins lately, and to be down 2-0 in the first and hold them to nothing is a good response. It’s a good test of character for the group.”
The first was disappointing considering that there were good stretches where the Rangers controlled the play. Instead, mistakes wound up in the back of their net. A bad Marc Staal pinch led to former Devil Carter breaking in and beating Henrik Lundqvist high stick side at 2:09 unassisted.
Staal also took a interference minor that resulted in the penalty killing allowing another power play goal. This time to Dumba, who was set up by Mikael Grandlund and Ryan Suter. The period ended with the Wild on another power play with Viktor Stalberg off for a phantom hook. They had the four Rangers penalty killers pinned in. But misfired.
The Rangers responded the right way by dominating the Wild in a lopsided second. A tremendous shift by Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider resulted in McDonagh beating Devan Dubnyk to cut the deficit in half at 3:15. With the crowd alive, Derick Brassard and Miller hooked up for a nice goal 1:20 later. Dan Girardi made a good pinch pushing the puck down to Brassard behind the net. He then made a perfect pass for Miller, who buried the one-timer for his 16th.
”We proved to ourselves what we’re capable of and how we can use our speed, compete and battle for pucks,” Rangers’ captain McDonagh said about the turnaround. ”What a difference it makes for us to be successful.”
The period was so lopsided that it easily could’ve been 4 or 5-2. The Wild had only Dubnyk to thank for remaining tied. With his team getting completely outskated, he made some acrobatic saves including a great glove stop to deny Keith Yandle while down. Great concentration by the Minnesota starting goalie, who finished with 26 saves. None of the three goals he allowed were his fault. He did a remarkable job keeping the Wild in the game.
Another great shift by Brassard, Miller and McDonagh resulted in the winner. The top line which also featured Jesper Fast a second consecutive game with Rick Nash remaining out had a strong game. On this particular shift, everyone was involved on Brassard’s game-decider. It was a aggressive Fast forecheck that allowed a pinching McDonagh to keep the play alive pushing the puck to Miller, who found Brassard all alone in front where he beat Dubnyk with a forehand deke for his team-tying 18th at 5:46 of the third.
Even though the shots were kept down with the Wild holding a slight 7-6 edge, they never seriously threatened. Defensively, the Blueshirts played a consistent game getting solid efforts from McDonagh and Girardi along with Yandle and rookie Dylan McIlrath. Dan Boyle also was okay while Staal recovered from his forgettable first. Interestingly, the coaching staff rode his top pair rewarding McDonagh with over 25 minutes of ice-time while Girardi received over 23. Each were plus-two combining for a goal and two assists.
With Wild coach Mike Yeo pulling Dubnyk a little early, Chris Kreider scored his 10th into an open net from Zuccarello. It allowed Zuccarello to record two assists. He was better in this one also attempting five shots with three on net while going plus-two. As for Kreider, he showed flashes of speed but missed the net five times. Stepan talied a helper and also went plus-two but finally had an off night in the faceoff dot losing 10 of 17 draws.
For once, Lundqvist wasn’t asked to carry the load. He only faced 18 shots making 16 saves. It would’ve been nice to see him bail out Staal. Granted. It was a breakaway goal but to Carter. Hank is no longer money on those.
Most notably, with the Islanders falling at the Capitals on a late Alex Ovechkin tally and the Devils picking up a point in a shootout loss at Toronto, the Rangers gained points in the standings moving back to three ahead of the Isles and Devs in the Metro Division. They have 61 points in 51 games with 26 ROW (regulation/overtime wins). The Isles remain third due to three less games played than the Devils. They have two games at hand on the Rangers.
The Pens remain at 57 due to being idle. The Flyers moved up to 54 with a win tying Carolina. The next game is Saturday at the Flyers.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Derick Brassard, NYR (GWG-18th, assist, +2 in 20 shifts-17:26)
2nd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (goal-7th, assist, +3 in 28 shifts-25:02)
1st Star-J.T. Miller, NYR (goal-16th, assist, +2 in 21 shifts-17:20)