NEW YORK — With his team down two goals after the first period, coach Alain Vigneault didn’t make a big speech to rally the inconsistent New York Rangers.
Vigneault told them they were playing well and to keep it up.
Derick Brassard, J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh did the rest.
Brassard set up Miller’s tying goal and scored the game-winner early in the third period as the Rangers shut down the struggling Minnesota Wild and posted a 4-2 victory Thursday night.
“This was a huge test for us to see where we were as a team,” Miller said. “We’ve been up and down with the wins lately, and to be down 2-0 in the first and hold them to nothing is a good response. It’s a good test of character for the group.”
McDonagh and the streaking Miller each had a goal and an assist as New York stretched its winning streak at Madison Square Garden to four games. Henrik Lundqvist made 16 saves, including two third-period stops on Marco Scandella after the Rangers took the lead.
Chris Kreider added an empty-net goal with 1:48 to play.
“We proved to ourselves what we’re capable of and how we can use our speed, compete and battle for pucks,” said McDonagh, who started the comeback early in the second period. “What a difference it makes for us to be successful.”
Ryan Carter and Matt Dumba scored for the Wild, who lost their second straight after the All-Star break and fell to 1-8-1 in their last 10.
“We just have to get out of this together,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “We’re all trying hard. We have to keep trying.”
All-Star goalie Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves as the teams split their two-game season series.
Brassard’s game-winning goal came after linemate Jesper Fast forced a turnover. Miller eventually took a pass at the top of the circles and found Brassard alone in front of Dubnyk for a shot into the lower corner and a 3-2 lead 5:46 into the final period.
“At first I thought he was going to poke-check me,” Brassard said of Dubnyk. “He’s big and I was not facing him. I was pretty surprised I had time to make a move on him.”
The Rangers took the first 12 shots in the second period and tied the score on goals by McDonagh and Miller in a 1:20 span.
McDonagh got the rebound of his own blocked shot and beat Dubnyk with a shot in close at 3:15.
Miller tied the score with a great shot from the left circle at 4:35 after taking a pass from behind the net by Brassard. It was Miller’s seventh goal in six games and eighth in eight.
Dubnyk kept the score tied in the next few minutes by stopping a rebound attempt in close from Oscar Lindberg and making a glove save on defenceman Keith Yandle while sitting in the crease.
The Rangers came back from the All-Star break and lost to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and it was a former Devil who put them behind early.
Carter, who just returned to the Wild lineup after missing seven games, blocked a point shot by defenceman Marc Staal and beat Lundqvist on a breakaway at 2:09 for his fifth goal.
Dumba made it 2-0 at 7:57 by snapping a 20-game goal drought with a power-play score from the top of the left circle.
“You can’t play one good period and then play two bad ones or two good ones and one bad one,” Wild veteran Mikko Koivu said. “It doesn’t work that way. Teams are so good at this time of year. If you can’t figure it out, you are not going to win a lot of hockey games.”
NOTES: Wild D Ryan Suter played in his 800th game. … Rangers forward Rick Nash missed his fourth straight game with a bone bruise. … New York D Kevin Klein is out indefinitely after breaking his thumb against the Devils. Dylan McIlrath replaced him in the lineup. … Jayson Megna played on the Rangers’ fourth line a day after being recalled from Hartford of the AHL. … Wild centre Charlie Coyle had his four-game goal streak snapped. … In his last 18 starts at home dating to Oct. 22, Lundqvist is 15-2-1.