Zherdev helps Rangers tame Wild

NEW YORK (AP) — These points were all about the standings and
had nothing to do with style.

Locked in separate playoff races, the New York Rangers and
Minnesota Wild staged a fight of attrition that lacked grace,
but provided a big payoff for whichever team would survive.

That club was the Rangers, who pulled out a 2-1 win Tuesday
night and moved into a sixth-place tie in the Eastern

“I know it wasn’t the most exciting game for the fans, but
that’s how you’ve got to play against a team like that,” said
Rangers agitator Sean Avery, who had an assist and a fight.

“They play a system that’s frustrating, but we just played
through it.”

Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and an assist, and Scott Gomez also
scored for the Rangers (39-27-8), who bounced back from a 2-1
loss to Ottawa on Sunday and won for the eighth time in 11

Zherdev gave New York its seventh straight 1-0 lead when he beat
the first-period clock and then helped set up Gomez’s
second-period tiebreaking tally. New York is in a flat-footed
tie with Pittsburgh, five points ahead of ninth-place Florida,
with eight games remaining.

Henrik Lundqvist rebounded from Sunday’s loss with a relatively
easy effort against the defensive-minded Wild. New York outshot
short-handed Minnesota 30-19.

“I thought we battled through the whole game,” Wild coach
Jacques Lemaire said. “It looked good that they had a lot of
shots compared to us, but a lot of them were not dangerous.
Overall, everyone played good. (Niklas) Backstrom played good,
our defensemen played really well, but we lack the scoring. You
can see it.”

Marian Gaborik, who scored five goals against Lundqvist and the
Rangers in the teams’ last meeting on Dec. 20, 2007, lifted the
Wild into a 1-1 tie. It was Gaborik’s first goal since returning
Sunday from a 38-game absence following hip surgery.

“I feel pretty good for the second game. Hopefully I can get
much better,” Gaborik said.

The Wild, below the playoff cutoff line in the West, lost ground
in the opener of a four-game road trip — falling for the third
time in five games. They will need Gaborik’s offense to help
offset the loss of captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu, who
will be out at least a week due to a knee injury sustained

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Minnesota has scored the second-fewest goals in the West (184).

“Everyone has to step up their game and pull as a team,” Gaborik
said. “We need to challenge each other and just go out there and
give everything. Responsibility and pressure come with it.
That’s the way it goes.”

Gomez made it 2-1 when he took a pass in the slot from Avery and
one-timed in his 16th goal at 2:24 of the second, 53 seconds
after Gaborik tied it with his fourth of the season in eight

The Wild had nearly as many fights in the first period as shots.
Minnesota, held to three shots, got into a pair of scraps just
over 2 minutes apart late in the frame.

Avery got tangled with Cal Clutterbuck in front of the Wild net
and dropped the gloves with his Minnesota counterpart. Both
players removed their helmets, with Avery dramatically spinning
his onto the ice, before they engaged in punches.

It was Avery’s first fight since rejoining the Rangers earlier
this month.

Rangers enforcer Colton Orr took on 37-year-old forward Owen
Nolan soon after, following a big collision in open ice. Nolan
seemed reluctant at first to take on the heavyweight, and Orr
was given an extra penalty for roughing. Minnesota’s power play
was wiped out 22 seconds later when Antti Miettinen went off for

That set up 4-on-4 play, leading to Zherdev’s goal that was a
product of patience.

Zherdev’s shot was stopped by Backstrom, but Zherdev gained the
rebound near the left post. Backstrom was down on his right side
as Zherdev waited with the puck on his stick. As Backstrom waved
his gloved hand in the air, trying to provide a miniature
golf-like impediment, Zherdev calmly waited for an opening and
found a small one under the goalie’s arm with 4.4 seconds left
in the first.

“You lose your patience against a Minnesota team, and the way
they play, and you allow them to transition, that’s when they
get you,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We played a
little bit of their game. We know they have injuries and they
tried to grind one out.

“They played well, but we didn’t blow ourselves up in trying to
do too much in that neutral zone.”