NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York Rangers were running out of time to make anything out of the longest homestand in team history.
The first seven games of the nine-game Madison Square Garden stay produced one win and only four of a possible 14 points for the Rangers, who seemingly lost their way in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Enter backup Cam Talbot, who got the rare start and kept all but one puck out.
Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello scored second-period goals, and Talbot made 24 saves in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.
Talbot allowed the first goal but was steady the rest of the way in relief of the struggling Lundqvist, who started the previous eight games and allowed at least three goals in the last seven outings.
“We owed the fans this one,” Talbot said. “They’ve been supporting us quite a bit lately, and we haven’t really produced for them.”
Benoit Pouliot tied it in the first period, Chris Kreider added a goal in the third, and Derick Brassard had two assists. Kreider made it 4-1 with 7:14 remaining.
“Probably our best game all year when it comes to playing a full 60 minutes and everyone contributing,” Hagelin said. “We definitely needed one of these just to feel good about ourselves.”
New York improved to 2-4-2 on the homestand that concludes Monday against Toronto.
“There is not a whole lot of time to think about it,” Talbot said. “Just go out there and try to carry this game into tomorrow.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he decided on his starting goalie for Monday, but didn’t reveal his choice.
“He’s a young kid that’s learning the NHL game,” Vigneault said of the 26-year-old rookie Talbot. “He came in here and did what we expect of our goalies and gave us a chance to win.”
Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 32 shots. He made his second straight start in place of Josh Harding, who is out while adjustments are made to medication for multiple sclerosis.
Minnesota, which has lost four of six, has netted only 13 goals in eight games.
“When you put yourself in a hole, it’s hard to get out of it when goals have been tough to come by and overall you’re just not feeling good about the way we’ve been playing,” forward Zach Parise said. “It’s just been a frustrating stretch for us.
“We’ve got to find a way to score. That’s the bottom line. We’re not scoring. We’re not giving ourselves a chance.”
New York took control during a dominant second period in which the Rangers outscored the Wild 2-0 and outshot them 17-5 to take a 3-1 lead and a 29-16 edge in shots.
“Our compete level, especially in the second period, was probably our best four-line, six-defence pairing in a long time,” Vigneault said.
Hagelin gave the Rangers the lead when he took a pass from Derek Dorsett in the right circle and snapped a drive that beat Backstrom at 11:26 for his third goal in four games.
The Rangers made it 3-1 with 1:25 left in the second when Brassard skated the length of the ice, curled behind the net, and flung a backhanded pass into the slot to the charging Zuccarello.
New York fell behind 4:08 in on Pominville’s team-leading 17th goal. Mikael Granlund, who returned after a long absence, won a faceoff in the New York zone. The puck came to Pominville, who moved it back to Ryan Suter at the left point and then cut to the front.
Suter sent him a quick pass for a deflection past Talbot. It marked the first time in 11 road games that Minnesota scored first.
“We felt pretty good about the way we played in the first period,” Parise said. “We got the first goal and that was it.”
New York cashed in on its second power play when Pouliot finished a crisp passing sequence started by Brad Richards. Brassard moved the puck to Ryan McDonagh, who sent a floating drive toward the net that Pouliot deflected in with 3:52 left. Pouliot, who has five goals, has scored in three of his last six games and has a point in four straight and five of six.
NOTES: The Rangers improved to 3-16-1 after allowing the first goal. The Wild fell to 14-2-2 after scoring first. … Suter has a six-game assist streak, his longest since another six-game run in December 2011 with Nashville. … The 21-year-old Granlund had missed 11 games with a head injury. He was hurt on his first shift against Phoenix on Nov. 27. … Wild defencemen Jared Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner played in their 200th NHL game. … Zuccarello has a point in 10 of 15 games.