Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/23/13
The Wild had come from their self-anointed State of Hockey that’s Minnesota while the Rangers were simply in a state of confusion midway through the first period, already trailing 1-0 and fortunate to be down by only one goal after 10 minutes of appalling defensive zone play. But then the Blueshirts received a spirited and effective shift down low from the Carl Hagelin-J.T. Miller-Benoit Pouliot third line that concluded with Hagelin drawing a penalty beneath the goal line. And though the ensuing power play failed to click, the ice had tilted inexorably in favor of — gasp — the home team. “I think that was my second shift,” Hagelin, who had been under-utilized by coach Alain Vigneault, told The Post following the Blueshirts’ 4-1 victory in which he recorded the go-ahead 2-1 goal in the second period and led the forwards with 17:06 of ice. “Playing down low and being able to draw penalties has always been a big part of my game,” he said. “We got another power play a few minutes later and after we scored on that, we dominated the rest of the game.” It was Pouliot who scored the power-play goal at 16:08 that tied the match, redirecting Ryan McDonagh’s right circle feed that followed a Brad Richards’ relay made possible when Mats Zuccarello won a one-on-two battle on the left wall. The Rangers rarely lost a battle thereafter, owning the puck, playing a confident, poised game in front of Cam Talbot, who made his first start since Dec. 2 after backing up Henrik Lundqvist for the previous eight matches. “We worked our [butts] off, if I can say that, and competed well,” said Zuccarello, who scored for a 3-1 lead at 18:35 of the second after Hagelin’s right-circle wrist shot had broken the tie at 11:26. “We have to play a physical game; it’s a physical sport. “We have to win those one-on-one battles and that will get us the puck more. We are a better when we are playing with the puck.” The 3-1 lead after two periods marked the first time in 10 games the Rangers had led by as many as two goals after 40 minutes, since the club went into the third with a 4-1 lead over the Canucks in the Nov. 30, 5-2 victory. It also was the first time in the last seven matches the Blueshirts hadn’t trailed by at least two goals. “Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve played extremely well with the lead,” said Hagelin, who joined the Rangers the day after Thanksgiving 2011. “When you’re behind by one goal, that’s one thing, but when you keep falling behind by two or three goals, it’s very hard to play your game.”
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