ST. PAUL, Minn. — Petr Sykora had a goal and an assist, and Eric Belanger and Antti Miettinen also scored to help the Minnesota Wild win for the first time in regulation this season, 3-2 over the New York Rangers on Friday night.
Mikko Koivu added two assists, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 18 shots as Minnesota snapped a two-game losing streak. Dane Byers scored his first NHL goal for the Rangers and Marc Staal added a third-period goal.
The game was originally billed as the return of Rangers star Marian Gaborik to Xcel Energy Center. That, however, was scrapped when Gaborik was injured this week.
Sykora, the former Pittsburgh player who was benched by Minnesota coach Todd Richards on Wednesday night against Nashville, scored the game's first goal and allowed the Wild to take a 1-0 lead for only the fourth time in 13 games this season.
Martin Havlat, who played the past three seasons for Chicago, made a perfect pass to Belanger at 7:49 of the second period to give Minnesota (4-9-0) the lead.
For a Minnesota team that entered the game having lost eight of its past 10, the victory — the first this season in which the Wild never trailed — was much needed. The Rangers, however, continued their recent struggles. After winning seven of eight games to start the season, New York is 1-4-1 in its last six games.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots for the Rangers (8-5-1).
Trailing 3-1 entering the third period, New York worked to get back in the game. Staal's shot from the left circle beat Backstom at 5:01 of the third period and cut Minnesota's lead to 3-2.
The Rangers controlled the play for most of the third period, but Backstrom made seven saves in the final 20 minutes as Minnesota held the lead.
Lundqvist came off the ice with 90 seconds remaining for an extra attacker, but the Rangers never got another shot on goal.
Miettinen's goal at 19:01 of the second period proved to be the game winner. After having to go back to the bench to replace a broken stick, Koivu made a nice backhand pass to Miettinen in the slot. In addition to giving the Wild a 3-1 lead, the goal snapped Miettinen's streak of 20 games without a goal.
Sykora got the Wild going late in the first period when he took a perfect Koivu pass across the slot and banged it over a sprawling Lundqvist.
Byers, playing in only his second NHL game, tied it at 1 at 5:33 in the second period. After Minnesota turned the puck over trying to clear the zone, Rangers defenseman Wade Redden shot from the high slot. While Backstrom stopped that shot, he didn't control the rebound and Byers knocked in the loose puck.
Byers almost wasn't available for the Rangers. Recalled from Hartford of the AHL, Byers' plane to Minnesota arrived late and he didn't arrive at the arena until pregame warmups were complete. Still, Byers, who played one game for the Rangers during the 2007-08 season, jumped right on the ice.
Sykora and first-year Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher will receive their Stanley Cup rings Saturday night when Minnesota plays at Pittsburgh. Fletcher spent the past three seasons as assistant general manager for the Penguins. Sykora scored 25 goals last season for Pittsburgh. … With Staal's goal, the Rangers have 12 goals from their defensemen, best in the NHL. Calgary and Phoenix each have nine goals from the blue line. … Sean Avery was scratched by the Rangers because of a knee injury. It was the fifth game this season that the left wing has missed. … The Rangers are in the midst of playing five of six on the road. The only game at Madison Square Garden in that stretch is Sunday against Boston.
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