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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Ruslan Fedotenko’s go-ahead goal in the third period gave the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory on Tuesday over the Minnesota Wild and some more space in the tightened Eastern Conference 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 now 6-6 in their last 12 games.
Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu scored power-play goals for the Wild, but Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was otherwise his normally stellar self.
With 6:23 left, Fedotenko found Wild defenseman Nate Prosser in an awkward position and scored on a pass from Ryan McDonagh that glanced off Wild defenseman Marco Scandella. McDonagh had two assists.
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 in position to stretch their lead in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference race 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 currently in the top eight in either conference and the Rangers have only three of their final six against foes currently above the playoff cut.
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.
Midway through the first period, Wild goalie Josh Harding couldn’t quite control the puck during a scrap in front of the crease and Brandon Dubinsky poked it free. His shot hit the post, but Boyle was there — actually behind Harding — to knock it in for the lead.
Boyle took a delay-of-game penalty early in the middle period, and the Wild took advantage. Cal Clutterbuck’s shot from the left circle glanced off Lundqvist’s pad and landed on the edge of the crease where Brodziak was trying to stay upright fighting for position with McDonagh. Brodziak’s off-balance sweep of the puck was enough to push it in to tie the game, giving him his 20th goal of the season.
Less than five minutes later, Brad Richards won a faceoff in the Wild zone by sending the puck backward to McDonagh. Richards corralled a pass in the corner then sent a beautiful feed to Gaborik in the slot. With Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner turned the wrong way, away from Gaborik, the slick-skating Slovakian flipped a backhander over Harding’s glove to give the Rangers the lead again. Gaborik had a huge smile on his face as he pumped his fist, with boos from the crowd providing the soundtrack to his skate back to the bench.
But their penalty kill failed them once more, when Dany Heatley sent a textbook circle-to-circle pass to set up Koivu’s goal just 38 seconds into the man-advantage situation. The Wild’s power play — 26th in the NHL entering the game — has produced five goals in their last 13 opportunities.
Devin Setoguchi had the first assist, 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.
NOTES: This was his Koivu’s 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 once played here in the Minnesota state tournament with Cretin-Derham High School.
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