“What a game!” — Sam Rosen
These aren’t the same Rangers that fans have gotten to know this season.
For the second consecutive game, the Blueshirts showed resiliency and heart in coming back to secure the win.
Right from the opening face-off, the Rangers were in trouble.
24 seconds into the game, Tyler Myers appeared to score a goal. But after an exhaustively long video review — initiated by Alain Vigneault’s coach’s challenge — it was determined the Jets were offsides on the play.
However, Winnipeg refused to let the Official’s ruling bring them down.
42 seconds later, Nikolaj Ehlers blasted a slapshot past Henrik Lundqvist; giving the Jets their 1-0 lead.
From there the teams battled hard, with Winnipeg controlling play.
But the Rangers’ newfound ability to fight back kicked into gear.
With 1:06 remaining in the opening period, Mats Zuccarello fired a shot at Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck. And Hellebuyck couldn’t handle it.
The puck leaked through the Jets’ netminder and just managed to cross the goal line; tying the game.
BOOM! Just like that, the game turned around for the Rangers.
Tied heading into the second period, the Blueshirts had momentum on their side. And they took the fight to Winnipeg throughout the middle period.
However, the Jets had no interest in being steamrolled.
Therefore, there were a number of altercations during the second period; including a fight between Cody McLeod and Matt Hendricks.
Hendricks won the fight, but McLeod’s involvement gave the Rangers some additional jump to their game.
In total, the Blueshirts outshot Winnipeg 18-10 during the period and came oh so close to scoring on a number of occasions. But the Jets held firm.
The third period started badly for the Rangers with J.T. Miller taking back-to-back tripping penalties; deflating the Blueshirts momentum.
Finally, with under four minutes to play in regulation, the Rangers caught a break.
Brady Skjei fired a shot from the point high and wide of the Jets’ net. But Jimmy Vesey, who had been in the middle of everything all game long, took the puck off his chest and redirected it past Hellebuyck; giving the Blueshirts the 2-1 lead.
It’s a good sign for the Rangers that Vesey was willing to be physical throughout the afternoon. Afterall, he was returning from a concussion.
Trailing 2-1 going into the final minute of play, Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker.
In response, the Blueshirts put Michael “the empty net specialist” Grabner on the ice. And he didn’t disappoint.
Grabner corralled the loose puck just outside Winnipeg’s zone and sent a backhander towards the Jets’ empty-net.
His aim was true and the Rangers lead was 3-1. For Grabner, it’s his seventh empty-netter of the year; two shy of the NHL record set by Pavel Bure.
A well timed save by Lundqvist ended Winnipeg’s last chance to comeback and the Blueshirts won 3-1.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
PAPA JOHN’S: The Rangers scored three goals. You know what that means.
P.K. ALL DAY: The Blueshirts were a perfect four-for-four on the penalty-kill and have not allowed more than a single power-play goal in 52 of 56 games this season.
A CHALLENGING PROPOSITION: A successful challenge by Alain Vigneault 24 seconds into the game resulted in Winnipeg losing a goal. And for the Rangers, they are now four-for-six on coach’s challenges this season.
I.D. PLEASE: Of the 20 players that suited up for the Rangers against the Jets, 10 are 25-years-old or younger. And nine are under-24. While the legal drinking age in the U.S.A is 21 there are tons of bars that refuse to serve alcohol to anybody under the age of 25. Good thing the Blueshirts aren’t planning on going for drinks after the game.
“LEAVING ON A JET PLANE”: The Rangers are one of only five NHL teams to come into Bell MTS Place this season and beat the Jets in regulation. And they are now 6-2-0 in Winnipeg since the franchise relocated there prior to the start of the 2011-12 season.
The Rangers face Mikko Koivu and the Wild Tuesday (Feb. 13) at Xcel Energy Center. Game time: 8 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Networks.
Looks like somebody forgot to tell the Blueshirts they aren’t supposed to win games like this.
A mid-week press conference with G.M. Jeff Gorton and Team President Glen Sather, revealed the Rangers are looking towards the future and are planning a rebuild.
But if this team continues to win games it’s supposed to lose, then those plans might have to change.