Rangers 5, Wild 2
The Minnesota Wild marked Marian Gaborik's first game as an opposing player in their arena by giving away bobblehead dolls of his likeness.
In the end, the New York Rangers were the ones nodding up and down.
Gaborik had an assist during a three-goal second period for the Rangers, and Martin Biron made 26 saves in a 5-2 rebound win over the Wild on Saturday night.
''Great feeling. Now this is kind of over with,'' Gaborik said. ''I had been thinking about it for a while. Quite frankly, I was nervous to be on the other side.''
Over the last 12 minutes of that lopsided middle frame, Artem Anisimov, Michael Del Zotto and Alex Frolov scored for the Rangers, and the Wild went without a shot on goal.
Gaborik, the Wild's first draft pick and the 10-year-old franchise's most productive and prolific player despite persistent injuries, got the second assist on Frolov's wraparound that glanced off John Madden's stick with 1 minute left in the second period.
Rangers coach John Tortorella said he thought Gaborik was more engaged in the game and praised him for his work away from the puck. Gaborik had four shots and two hits in 16-plus minutes.
Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko tacked on goals for the Rangers in the third period, minimizing the impact of late scores for the Wild by Matt Cullen and Martin Havlat.
Dan Girardi had two assists for the Rangers, who improved to 5-0 this season on the second of back-to-back games. They were beaten 5-1 in Colorado on Friday, prompting an in-game goalie switch from Henrik Lundqvist to Biron and a postgame fury from Tortorella. Tortorella, who won his 300th NHL game, was beaming about his team's progress after this one.
''You'd like to think we're developing a little bit of mental toughness in trying to grind through and stop the bleeding after a game like last night,'' Tortorella said.
So why the success in back-to-back games?
''We've had tough training camps and it shows,'' said Del Zotto, who scored on a power play after being a minus-4 on Friday. ''Our conditioning is at peak level right now, and it's been working for us.''
Gaborik, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Rangers before last season, was booed in warmups and introductions by the fans who grew frustrated with his inability to stay healthy. Over eight seasons, Gaborik accumulated 219 goals and 218 assists for the Wild, by far the most in their history. When the Rangers visited last season, Gaborik was out with a lower-body injury.
The crowd was far more kind to enforcer Derek Boogaard, formerly the Wild's designated fighter who took his 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame to Broadway this season. He had a big hand in Anisimov's goal, the game's first, when he put a big hit on Robbie Earl as he turned the puck over in the Wild zone.
Then, as Boogaard tied up defenseman Marco Scandella at the edge of the crease, Anisimov snagged a long rebound and sent it past Niklas Backstrom for the early lead before jumping knees-first into the boards to celebrate.
The Wild, who were 6-2 in their previous eight games, saw their three-game winning streak end while falling to 1-3-1 on the second of back-to-back games. They paid paying dearly this time for another lethargic period.
Minnesota coach Todd Richards has expressed concern about the inconsistency, despite the team's recent ability to overcome it.
The Wild were outshot 18-3 in the second period of Friday's overtime win at Detroit, and their sluggishness showed up again in this one. The Rangers had a 17-4 shots edge during the decisive second period.
''It's something that we talk about, and we have to correct it,'' Richards said. ''Answers for it? Right now, I don't know.''
Cullen's short-handed goal was answered 80 seconds later by Fedotenko.
''As of late we've been finding ways to overcome it and come out with a win,'' Cullen said. ''Obviously tonight we dug ourselves too big of a hole, made too many mistakes in the second. That leads to penalties and that leads to a momentum swing. That was the story.''
NOTES: Dubinsky, who entered the game tied for fifth in the NHL in goals, scored for just the second time in eight games. He had 10 goals in the first 13 games. ... Former Wild C Todd White was scratched by the Rangers. ... Cullen's goal, his fourth of the season, was his first in more than a month. ... Minnesota Twins pitcher Carl Pavano, who recently became a free agent, led the crowd in the traditional ''Let's play hockey!'' chant to start the game. He grew up in Connecticut rooting for the Hartford Whalers.