Rangers defeat Jets 4-2

- March 29th, 2012

Make it a clean sweep for the New York Rangers in the four-game season series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Although the Jets have earned plenty of impressive wins this season — especially at MTS Centre — the Rangers showed them why they’ve opened up a five-point cushion in the race for top spot in the Eastern Conference standings over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite falling behind 2-0 as the Jets got goals from Spencer Machacek (off the stick of Rangers D-man Michael Del Zotto and between the legs of Henrik Lundqvist for his second NHL goal) and Bryan Little (along the ice after a slick pass from Blake Wheeler for his 23rd) less than a minute apart early in the second period, the Rangers fired up their special teams engine and maintained their composure before scoring the next four goals of the game.

One of those goals came while shorthanded — a beauty from Del Zotto set up perfectly by Ryan Callahan, who passed the puck deftly off the side of the net and right onto the stick of the Rangers D-man. That gave the Rangers some life and Jets head coach Claude Noel called it the turning point of the game.

He was bang on.

Before the second was over, Callahan (an absolute force in this game) tied it on the power play.

Late in the period, Jets captain Andrew Ladd was given a questionable double minor for high sticking but after killing it off Brian Boyle put the Rangers on top, walking out in front of the goal and slipping a shot past Ondrej Pavelec.

Didn’t like the coverage on the play by Jets D-man Toby Enstrom, who didn’t do a good job of contesting Boyle as he drove the net.

Derek Stepan added a power play marker at 10:06 of the third to put the game on ice.

Coming off the disappointment of Monday’s 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Jets found a way to re-energize and came out strong but they fall flat after the shortie (the seventh they’ve given up this season) and never really recovered.

Special teams were a major area of concern for the Jets, who went 0-for-5 as they were given five consecutive power plays – including a lengthy 5-on-3 that lasted one minute and 43 seconds – and also gave up a shortie.

Conversely, the Rangers were 2-for-5 and added a shortie.

“They obviously capitalized on a lot of their chances on the power play,” said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian. “They have some skilled players. We were doing really well until the middle of the second period, where they kind of got the momentum back. They play a good defensive game where they kind of wait for their opportunities and capitalize on it.

“It’s frustrating. Anytime you lose it sucks. We’re competitive people in here no matter what, whether we’re in first place or last place. It’s our job to come out and play hard and win hockey games and we didn’t do that.”

The Rangers showed just how stingy they are, allowing only three goals to the Jets in four games this season, blanking them twice — as Lundqvist and Martin Biron split the starts and each had one shutout.

The Jets do a pretty good job of blocking shots and had 12 in this one, but the Rangers are exceptional at it, finishing the contest with 24.

“They’re very good at that, probably the best in the league at sacrificing and getting in lanes,” said Jets forward Tanner Glass. “They play really good team defence and it showed. They’re a frustrating bunch (to play against), that’s for sure.

“What’s good about them is that everyone does it. It’s not just their penalty-kill guys, you see Ryan Callahan, their captain, diving in front of shots. Not that our guys don’t, but it seems they have a knack to do it every night and they get in lanes. It’s definitely a skill that’s developed over time and for whatever reason, that team is good at it.”

If the Jets want to break through and be a playoff team in the near future, those are the type of heavy games they have to find a way to win.

Against a team like the Rangers — who were playing on consecutive nights after beating the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday — you can’t give them any life or allow them back in the game. Or else.

It’s easy to see why the Rangers are an impressive 10-2-2 in the second game of back-to-backs. They don’t use fatigue as an excuse or a crutch. They battle through it.

We’re not suggesting the Jets don’t try to win consecutive games, but you can’t hide the fact they’re really struggled in the same situation (winning only once) with one final set of them coming this weekend against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday after opening this four-game road trip Friday in Raleigh, N.C. against the surging Carolina Hurricanes.

Looking at the standings, the Jets remain 10th in the East with five games to go, but several teams are chasing them down, including the Hurricanes (75 points) and the Lightning (77 points). The Jets aren’t technically eliminated yet, but they could be before the weekend is out as the most they can get now is 88 points and the Buffalo Sabres already have 84, with five games left to go.

Where the Jets sit when the welcome the Lightning to MTS Centre for the final game of the regular season?

The Jets have lost five of six and if they can’t break the cycle soon, they could slip as low as 12th or 13th in the conference, a thought that seemed almost impossible as little as two weeks ago.

That’s going to be interesting to monitor during the next week, which also features road games against the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders.

 

Categories: Hockey

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