First the Rangers lost their focus Monday night. Then they lost their discipline.
And then, trailing by three goals after two periods and missing two players who had been ejected, they scored five goals in the third to beat the Minnesota Wild, 5-4, in front of a delirious crowd at Madison Square Garden.
"It shows what you can accomplish playing with some jump, some fire," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We've got to find a way to start like that."
The dramatic, unlikely win -- in which rookie Anthony Duclair tied the score with his first NHL goal with 3:48 left and Mats Zuccarello broke his scoreless drought 37 seconds later -- lifted the Rangers to a 5-4 record.
"It was," coach Alain Vigneault said, "one of those games where it seemed like the last shot wins."
After 40 minutes, the Rangers, having to kill 14 minutes of penalties and trailing by three, had only eight shots, and seemed destined to their second consecutive loss and a sub-.500 record. After all, the Wild had allowed just six goals in six games, and the Rangers looked buried.
But during the intermission before the third period, team leaders spoke up.
"We wanted to hold each other accountable for a good 20 minutes," Rick Nash said. "We kind of dictated instead of sitting back. We believed in here, for sure. After we got one, it felt like we were rolling."
That first one came on Kevin Klein's blue-line blast that went through Nash's legs and past goalie Darcy Kuemper at 2:52. The assists went to Nash and Zuccarello. Nash then backhanded the rebound of Matt Hunwick's shot for his ninth goal at 4:48, but Jason Zucker's tip gave the Wild a 4-2 lead just 47 seconds later.
Then Carl Hagelin took advantage of a Wild turnover and his shot from the high slot hit the crossbar and came straight down. Derick Brassard was alone for the putback, and the Rangers closed to 4-3 at 7:54. Duclair, 19, ripped a shot from the right circle off the rush to tie it at 16:12 and Zuccarello pumped in his first of the year on a pass from Brassard 37 seconds later for the winner.
"I can't even explain what just happened," Brassard said. "We couldn't get anything going . . . We just talked to each other after the second, to get one goal and go from there. When you're down 3-0, it's not one shift, it's the first goal."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time the Rangers came back from a three-goal deficit entering the third period to win since Feb. 21, 1992, against the Minnesota North Stars.
"It was kind of embarrassing being out there," Zuccarello said. "But we said some words after the second and showed some really good character. That's the way we should play at home. Just don't be afraid. That's when we're one of the best teams in the league."
On the down side, John Moore's elbow to the head of Erik Haula at 7:12 of the second period drew a match penalty, which means an automatic hearing by the league's department of player safety. Moore was suspended for two games after a head shot to Montreal's Dale Weise in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"It's obviously a sore point right now," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, who also lamented his team's meltdown.
"We have to give ourselves some credit," Henrik Lundqvist said. "It was not pretty for two periods, but we found a way."