ST. PAUL (AP) -- As the New York Rangers head for the stretch drive determined to snap a five-year playoff drought, line combinations are sure to be of primary importance.
It certainly worked out that way Wednesday night. In the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild, coach Glen Sather found a winning combination.
The unit of Mark Messier centering Sandy McCarthy and Dan LaCouture accounted for half of the team's goals. McCarthy opened the scoring, and Messier got the winner on a second-period breakaway.
Messier picked up an errant pass and came in alone on goalie Dwayne Roloson. He tucked a backhander between the right post and Roloson's skate to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
"The lines change every day, but that line has certainly played very well together," Sather explained. "With that said, I thought the whole team played good."
Minnesota got power-play goals from Andrew Brunette and Sergei Zholtok, and outshot the Rangers 12-2 in the third period.
New York snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-0 against the Wild. Minnesota is on a three-game losing streak, its longest this season.
"We moved the puck very well tonight and we moved ourselves. Nobody was standing around," said Zholtok, who missed an open net and hit the post on two second-period scoring opportunities. "It was tough for the Rangers to cover everybody and that let us create a lot of scoring chances."
The Rangers opened the scoring on McCarthy's third goal. Brian Leetch made a backhand pass from behind the net to McCarthy, posted just outside the crease.
The Wild needed barely two minutes to tie it, with Andrew Brunette scoring on a power play.
Cliff Ronning's shot from the blue line deflected off the skate of a Rangers defenseman and went wide of the net. But Brunette corralled the puck and lifted a wrist shot into the upper half of the net while goalie Mike Dunham dived in a failed attempt to block the shot.
N.Y. Rangers 2 1 1 -- 4
Minnesota 1 1 0 -- 2
First Period--1, N.Y. Rangers, McCarthy 3 (Leetch, Messier), 6:07. 2, Minnesota, Brunette 14 (Ronning, Kuba), 8:15 (pp). 3, N.Y. Rangers, Leetch 5 (Bure, Nedved), 9:16 (pp). Penalties--Malakhov, NYR (interference), 7:14; Ronning, Min (high-sticking), 8:44; Petrovicky, NYR (goalie interference), 17:31; Mironov, NYR (roughing), 18:45.
Second Period--4, N.Y. Rangers, Messier 15, 7:17. 5, Minnesota, Zholtok 9 (Brunette, Zyuzin), 10:28 (pp). Penalty--Lundmark, NYR (hooking), 10:09.
Third Period--6, N.Y. Rangers, Holik 11 (Dvorak, Petrovicky), 16:55. Penalties--Petrovicky, NYR (ob.-hooking), 6:17; Kovalev, NYR (tripping), 9:32.
Shots on goal--N.Y. Rangers 10-7-2--19. Minnesota 7-10-12--29.
Power-play Opportunities--N.Y. Rangers 1 of 1; Minnesota 2 of 6.
Goalies--N.Y. Rangers, Dunham 14-20-4 (29 shots-27 saves). Minnesota, Roloson 17-12-7 (19-15).
A--18,568 (18,064). T--2:18.
Referees--Terry Gregson, Dennis LaRue. Linesmen--Randy Mitton, Mark Wheler.
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