Rangers rally to defeat Wild
By Everett Merrill, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 1 New York 4
NEW YORK -- Since being recalled from the minors two months ago, Cam Talbot has played the part as the New York Rangers top goalie.
Talbot, the backup to Henrik Lundqvist, once again provided the Rangers with a lift, stopping 24 shots in New York's 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
The win moved the Rangers (17-18-2) to just 2-4-2 on their longest homestand in history, which concludes Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Minnesota (20-13-5) dropped its fourth game in its last six.
The Rangers hadn't won a game in regulation since a 3-1 win at Buffalo on Dec. 5.
Coach Alain Vigneault's team overcame a 1-0 Minnesota first-period lead by scoring two goals in the second period and one in the third.
The 26-year-old Talbot (7-2) was making his first start in goal for the Rangers since Dec. 2. He was recalled from Hartford of the AHL on Oct. 20 and has played sparingly.
However, Talbot has been the equivalent of a stopper with five of his seven wins coming after Rangers losses.
"Anything can happen, you just have to be ready," said Talbot. "That's been my mindset coming in here. Obviously Hank (Lundqvist) is the proven No. 1 and he's going to get the bulk of the games.
"I knew that coming in my role is to play once every couple of weeks and obviously I'm fine with that. I just stay focused and stay ready whenever I get the call."
Talbot entered the game with a 1.74 goals-against average, compared to Lundqvist's 2.77 in 28 games. Lundqvist, who started the previous eight games after signing a long contract extension, allowed at least three goals in seven of those outings.
"We were able to help Cam (Talbot) there tonight, maybe a little more than we were able to help Hank (Lundqvist) the last couple of games," said center Mats Zuccarello.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom (2-7-2) recorded 32 saves for the Wild. He gave up a third-period goal to Rangers left winger Chris Kreider, who sent a weak shot between his pads.
Zuccarelllo slipped a backhander for his eighth goal of the season at 18:35 of the second to make it 3-1. Center Derek Brassard skated down the right wing and behind the Minnesota net, where he shoveled a pass in front to a waiting Zuccarello.
"The defensemen were playing me on the outside and it's a hard play for them," said Brassard. "Zuc (Zuccarello) was coming from the bench and they had to turn around. All credit to him, he found the open spot there. That's something we talked about as a line, to produce more offense."
Left winger Carl Hagelin's eighth goal of the season, a wrist shot to the top shelf, gave the Rangers a 2-1 edge at 11:26. The left winger received a pass from right winger Derek Dorsett and sent a one-timer over Backstrom's shoulder.
Talbot wasn't tested in the second period as Minnesota managed only five shots.
The Rangers scored their 24th power-play goal thanks to left winger Benoit Pouliot's deflection off defenseman Ryan McDonagh's wrist shot at 16:08 of the first period. Pouliot's fifth goal of the season tied the game at 1-1.
New York was 9-for-41 on the power play in its previous 12 games.
Right winger Jason Pominville gave the Wild a 1-0 lead at 4:04 of the first period when he deflected defenseman Ryan Suter's pass at the goal mouth for his 17th goal of the season. Center Mikael Granlund won the faceoff, sending the puck back to Pominville, who worked a give-and-go with Suter.
"We had a great start tonight," said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo. "It was one of the best starts we had all season. But you can tell the confidence is shaken now, both as individuals and as a group.
"When they (Rangers) scored the first goal, we tightened up a little bit and when they scored the second goal, we tightened up completely."
NOTES: Wild C Mikael Granlund returned after missing 11 games with a concussion. He skated on the second line with wingers Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville. ... Minnesota G Josh Harding, the league leader in goals-against average (1.51), missed his second consecutive game in order to evaluate his medication for multiple sclerosis. He is expected to return after the NHL's Christmas break. ... C Mike Rupp made his first return to Madison Square Garden since the Rangers traded him to Minnesota last season. Rupp was a healthy scratch in six consecutive games before he played Sunday. ... Wild Ds Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner each skated in their 200th NHL game. ... Rangers C Derek Brassard is two points shy of 200 career points.
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