NEW YORK – Frustration was mounting for the New York Rangers on Monday night, and it was manifesting itself in a variety of ways.
There was the reckless – Chris Kreider’s shove of Jonas Brodin into the boards in the final minute of the first period earned him a game misconduct. There was the violent – John Moore’s second-period elbow to Erik Haula’s head earned him a match penalty and an automatic supplemental discipline hearing, which is likely to end with Moore on the business end of a hefty suspension.
There was also the lackluster – that came in the form of defensive breakdowns and an offense that was literally a non-starter, as the team managed just eight shots on goal through a listless 40 minutes, which ended with the defending conference champions getting booed off the ice in a 3-0 hole.
But during the second intermission, that frustration turned into anger, which goaltender Henrik Lundqvist verbalized during a speech in the locker room.
“There was a lot said,” according to forward Rick Nash, who heard the message loud and clear, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a wild third period comeback. “We knew we had to pick up our game, we knew it wasn’t good enough for an effort after 40 minutes. We wanted to hold each other accountable for a good 20 minutes.”
“I think it was more frustration than anger in here,” Lundqvist said, adding a few hints about what was spoken. “We talked about going out and playing with emotion and working extremely hard. This is our home ice and we’re going to show the fans just how much we want to win, just how much we’re willing to play for that. We showed it in the third.”
They sure did. After entering the final 20 minutes trailing by three, the Rangers scored five goals in the third, the most they’ve scored during any period in over three years, giving them a thrilling 5-4 comeback win over the Wild, who had allowed just six goals all season before being blitzed in Manhattan.
“We definitely don’t want to be doing that too often,” Nash said of being forced into making the unlikely comeback. “The third period we kind of dictated instead of sitting back.”
The barrage started quickly, when Kevin Klein blasted one through a maze of bodies and past Darcy Kuemper (15 saves). Less than two minutes later, Rick Nash brought the deficit to one with a rebound goal. Just as quickly as the capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden leaped to its feet, they were quieted by Jason Zucker, who deflected one past Lundqvist (26 saves) to put the Wild back up by two.
“It could have been a deflater,” Vigneault said, before pausing. “Is that an English word, or am I inventing something?”
Two minutes and 19 seconds after Zucker gave the Wild insurance, Derick Brassard deposited the rebound of Carl Hagelin’s shot that had banged off the crossbar, bringing the deficit back to one.
“I don’t think anyone here wants to come back from a 3-0 deficit every night, because it’s not fun,” said Brassard, who has a point in five of the team’s last seven games (4-3—7). “We find a way tonight, but this week we have the chance to practice, and just to come back to our game and make sure we relax and are having fun. We’re just too nervous out there right now.”
“It was not pretty for two periods,” Lundqvist said. “It was not great at all, but we found a way. We came out in the third and showed a lot more determination and emotion, and that helps in this game.”
Anthony Duclair, 19, sent the crowd into delirium with 3:48 left when he scored the first goal of his NHL career, driving one through Kuemper to tie the game. Mats Zuccarello scored the winner 37 seconds later.
“Hasn’t sunk in yet, I don’t think. We started off slow and in the third period, some key guys gave us momentum. That was a big comeback for us. Speaks to the leadership in this locker room,” an elated Duclair said. “To get my first [goal] at Madison Square Garden, it can’t get any better than that.”
The win, on the other hand, can get better. The Rangers escaped with one they didn’t deserve. Make no mistake, they’re not giving it back, but they know they have to be better.
“It’s great to see the way guys stepped up and showed character here,” Lundqvist said. “Obviously we put ourselves in a really tough spot. We talked about it the other day, it’s finding ways to win hockey games.”
The Rangers won after trailing by three goals entering the third period for the first time since Feb. 21, 1992, when they made the comeback against the Minnesota North Stars.
It’s only the second time in franchise history the team won when trailing 3-0 entering the third.
Lundqvist skated in his 582nd career game with the Rangers, tying Gump Worsley for second on the team’s all-time goalie appearances list. Mike Richter is first with 666 career appearances.