The New York Rangers had just about everything go right.
Their primary Eastern Conference competitor actually lost a game, and their opponent on the ice gave them an easy path to the go-ahead goal. The Rangers, naturally, were more concerned about their own performance.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored with 6:23 left to lead the Rangers past the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Tuesday to create some more space in the tightened playoff race.
Marian Gaborik also scored, frustrating the fans of his former team, and Brian Boyle had a goal for the Rangers, who won for the third time in their last nine road games. They’re 6-6 in their last 12 games.
”We were more concerned with our second period than where we stood,” Boyle said, adding: ”Two points is big for us. But we want to be better.”
Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu scored power-play goals for the Wild, but Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was otherwise his normally stellar self. He said he doesn’t care about the standings for the moment.
”It’s in our hands still. So as long as we focus on our job and do the right things, then we’ll be fine,” Lundqvist said.
With an assist from their metropolitan-area rivals, the last-place New York Islanders, who beat Pittsburgh 5-3 earlier in the evening, the Rangers were able to stretch their lead in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference to three points over the Penguins, 103-100.
The Penguins had gone 14-1-1 in their previous 16 games. The Rangers visit Pittsburgh on April 5, the second-to-last game before the playoffs, but the Penguins have five of their last six games against teams in the top eight in either conference, and the Rangers have only three of their final six against foes above the playoff cut.
Fedotenko found Wild defenseman Nate Prosser in an awkward position in front of the net and scored without problem on a pass from Ryan McDonagh that glanced off Wild defenseman Marco Scandella.
”I just tried to throw it in front,” said McDonagh, who had two assists. ”I think it hit their guy’s stick to end up on Feds’, but you know: It’s something that’s in our structure.”
That defensive lapse was not in the Wild’s structure, and coach Mike Yeo was angry about it.
”I’m not in a very good mood right now because we do a lot of good things and we just give them a freebie,” Yeo said, adding: ”That’s what’s maddening. We had a lot of really good efforts and we did a lot of really good things tonight.”
Said Scandella: ”It’s a bad bounce, but we’ve just got to bounce back from this.”
The already-depleted Wild took what’s probably their final blow of the season when center Matt Cullen — fourth on the team with 35 points — had surgery to repair a broken finger he sustained blocking a shot in Saturday’s game at Buffalo. But the Wild turned in one of their best performances in months against a Rangers team that could’ve used a pushover.
”They’re pros. Why would you give up?” Boyle said.
Devin Setoguchi had the first assist on Koivu’s goal, making this the first time all season Heatley and Setoguchi were credited for setting up a score by Koivu. After acquiring Heatley and Setoguchi in separate summer trades with San Jose, the Wild believed they had a first-rate first line. But Heatley has been hot and cold, Setoguchi has also been a nonfactor at times and Koivu has missed a total of 24 games because of a shoulder problem.
”It’s just the little mental lapses we’ve got to get rid of,” Brodziak said, adding: ”We have a jersey to represent, and we have fans that come out and support us, and there’s a lot of reasons to keep playing and keep working as hard as we can.”
NOTES: This was Koivu’s first goal since Feb. 16 and his second score since the initial injury occurred on Jan. 14. . . . Gaborik moved within two goals of his third career 40-goal season. . . . McDonagh is from St. Paul and won a Minnesota state tournament on this ice in 2006 with Cretin-Derham High School. He said he had about 80 friends and family members in attendance. . . . Gaborik now has a goal against all 30 teams. This was his first against the Wild, who made him the franchise’s first draft pick in 2000. . . . The Wild’s power play — 26th in the NHL entering the game — has produced five goals in their last 13 opportunities.