Lackluster performances in their most recent games damaged the New York Rangers’ and Minnesota Wild’s playoff hopes and left both clubs eager to move on quickly.
They’ll get to do so Thursday night when the host Wild look to avoid a fourth straight loss overall and third in a row to the Rangers.
Minnesota (34-22-9) rallied from two goals down to earn a point against first-place St. Louis in a 3-2 shootout loss Sunday, but the Wild couldn’t build on that effort Tuesday. They blew a 3-0 first-period lead and had to settle for a less encouraging point in a 4-3 shootout home defeat to last-place Edmonton, getting outscored 2-0 in the third.
”We got really complacent when we were up 3-0,” forward Zach Parise said. ”Just (a) lack of energy on the bench even when we were up 3-0. You could just sense, even though we were up 3-0, we weren’t feeling good. We played with no intensity, no urgency.”
Minnesota holds a three-point lead over Dallas for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, with Phoenix just a point behind the Stars. Dallas and Phoenix won Tuesday, making the Wild’s loss sting a bit more.
Minnesota has slipped defensively during its three-game skid, giving up 11 goals after allowing six during the five consecutive victories that preceded it.
"Obviously we had some momentum, we had kind of a good thing going, and now we’re kind of struggling to find the right mix, the right chemistry, whatever it is," coach Mike Yeo said. "… As long as we keep working to find that, once we find that, then we’ll be fine, but we’ve got to aim to do it sooner rather than later."
The Rangers (35-27-4) thought they had done just that after their own three-game slide, winning two in a row, but they then turned in an uninspired effort in a 3-1 road loss to struggling Carolina on Tuesday.
New York was outshot 35-25 and drew the ire of its usually upbeat coach.
”Not that I don’t want to give credit to Carolina because they played a good game, but we (gave) away two points because we didn’t work,” said Alain Vigneault, whose club is one point up on Columbus and Philadelphia for second place in the Metropolitan Division. ”I have not said that very often about the group this year, but right from the start, our work ethic wasn’t what it needs to be in this league to have any chance.”
The Rangers suffered from numerous defensive breakdowns, particularly from the defense pairing of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman, which was on the ice for every Hurricanes goal.
”You have to wake up and just be confident in our game and our system and keep moving forward and looking ahead,” Staal said. ”The last couple games we’ve had haven’t been a great result, but our effort has always been there. It’s nice to get a good result.”
That’s mostly what New York has gotten lately against Minnesota, winning the last two meetings and three of four. It’s taken the past two matchups at the Xcel Energy Center, the most recent a 3-2 victory March 27, 2012.
Backup Cam Talbot will get the start in goal over Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who play again Friday at Winnipeg. Talbot also started the first game against Minnesota this season, making 24 saves in a 4-1 home victory Dec. 22.
Darcy Kuemper is expected to be in net for the Wild again despite allowing seven goals in his past two starts. He had gone 5-0-0 with a 1.17 goals-against average in his previous five.