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Goalie switch pays off for struggling Rangers

AP

The New York Rangers were running out of time to make anything out of the longest homestand in team history.

The first seven games of the nine-game Madison Square Garden stay produced one win and only four of a possible 14 points for the Rangers, who seemingly lost their way in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Enter backup Cam Talbot, who got the rare start and kept all but one puck out.

Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello scored second-period goals, and Talbot made 24 saves in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.

Talbot allowed the first goal but was steady the rest of the way in relief of the struggling Lundqvist, who started the previous eight games and allowed at least three goals in the last seven outings.

“We owed the fans this one,” Talbot said. “They’ve been supporting us quite a bit lately, and we haven’t really produced for them.”

Benoit Pouliot tied it in the first period, Chris Kreider added a goal in the third, and Derick Brassard had two assists. Kreider made it 4-1 with 7:14 remaining.

“Probably our best game all year when it comes to playing a full 60 minutes and everyone contributing,” Hagelin said. “We definitely needed one of these just to feel good about ourselves.”

New York improved to 2-4-2 on the homestand that concludes Monday against Toronto.

“There is not a whole lot of time to think about it,” Talbot said. “Just go out there and try to carry this game into tomorrow.”

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he decided on his starting goalie for Monday, but didn’t reveal his choice.

“He’s a young kid that’s learning the NHL game,” Vigneault said of the 26-year-old rookie Talbot. “He came in here and did what we expect of our goalies and gave us a chance to win.”

Jason Pominville scored for the Wild, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 32 shots. He made his second straight start in place of Josh Harding, who is out while adjustments are made to medication for multiple sclerosis.

Minnesota, which has lost four of six, has netted only 13 goals in eight games.

New York took control during a dominant second period in which the Rangers outscored the Wild 2-0 and outshot them 17-5 to take a 3-1 lead and a 29-16 edge in shots.

Canucks 2, Jets 1

In Vancouver, goalie Roberto Luongo left early because of an injury, putting a damper on the Canucks’ latest victory.

Long after Luongo departed, defenseman Chris Tanev broke a tie in the third period.

Luongo had his leg clipped by big Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, and was knocked flat during a goal-mouth collision with Blake Wheeler. The goalie left a few minutes later, with 3:30 left in the first period.

Vancouver coach John Tortorella said only that Luongo had a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. The team’s next game is Dec. 29 at Calgary.

Tortorella said Luongo had spoken with trainer Mike Burnstein briefly a couple of shifts earlier, but the coach had no idea the goalie was in any trouble.

“I didn’t know,” Tortorella said. “It surprised me.”

The Olympic gold medallist was replaced by Eddie Lack. Luongo is one of the goalies being considered to play for Canada in the Sochi Olympics.

Lack made 15 saves to improve to 6-2-0.

“I was a bit surprised, for sure,” Lack said. “I didn’t hear anything before that he was hurt. I just stuck my glove on and got out there.”

Tanev scored at 10:23 of the third period. He took a pass in the high slot from Zack Kassian and ripped a shot past goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

“I’m just trying to get pucks to the net,” Tanev said. “It seemed like the seas parted when I got it. It was awesome when I walked into it.”