Establishing leads, even cushy ones, hasn’t been a problem for the Wild.
Protecting them, however, has produced mixed results.
But by assembling a three-goal head start in each of the past three games, the team is giving itself plenty of practice.
And that appears to be paying off, as the Wild shrugged off the Rangers 3-2 Tuesday in front of 18,887 at Xcel Energy Center to prolong its franchise-record point streak on home ice to 13 games — the longest run in the NHL this season.
“I don’t care how many have gone wrong or right,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “I’ll take a three-goal lead all day.”
Three different lines headlined the early outburst of offense, with all three goals coming in a span of 3 minutes, 8 seconds off just eight shots. Combine that execution with 32 saves by Dubnyk and the Wild had enough to withstand the forthcoming push by the Rangers, which didn’t look easy to overcome.
“Sometimes we get to the point we get three and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to get eight or 10 here,’ ” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That doesn’t happen in this league, and then it usually backfires on you, and it started to and then we turned it around and started to play the right way.”
The Rangers were discombobulated at the outset, getting overwhelmed by the Wild, which scored on its first shot after an impressive individual effort from center Eric Staal.
After the Rangers bobbled Staal’s clearing attempt along the boards, Staal picked up the puck, skated into the offensive zone and wired a wrist shot by goalie Henrik Lundqvist 3:09 into the opening period for his team-leading 25th goal.
Only 1:25 later, the Wild went up 2-0 on another nice hustle play — this time from winger Zach Parise, whose interception of a Rick Nash pass in the defensive zone rolled by Lundqvist just inside the post. It was Parise’s fourth point in four games.
The fourth line capped off the scoring on a Marcus Foligno one-timer that fooled Lundqvist, who totaled 26 saves, at 6:17 in Foligno’s 400th career game.
“We were engaged early, and the energy was great in the building,” Staal said “It was fun. It was a great start.”
This was the third straight time the Wild raced out to a 3-0 lead, and while it was able to hold off the Blackhawks for a shutout win Saturday, the Rangers eventually had a response similar to the Coyotes’ when they rallied for a 4-3 overtime win last Thursday.
New York converted on its first power play at 8:50 of the first. Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo set up fellow blue-liner John Gilmour for a one-timer that was Gilmour’s first NHL goal.
That momentum carried over to the second, when the Rangers outshot the Wild 19-8, and another power-play goal trimmed New York’s deficit again.
Center Kevin Hayes unleashed a shot off the rush at 11:46 by Dubnyk to make it 3-2. The Rangers finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage, while the Wild blanked on its lone opportunity.
“We spent a lot of time defending,” Staal said.
But a second-intermission chat refocused the Wild, and the team returned for the third with much better puck management — outshooting the Rangers eight to four.
“We spent the majority of the period in the neutral zone or in their end, and that’s I’m sure frustrating for them,” Dubnyk said. “That was a picture-perfect third period when you have a lead.”