Jets charge past Rangers, into eighth in conference standings

Jason Bell, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Winnipeg Jets finally crossed the line Thursday night.
The Jets seized sole possession of eighth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference with a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers at sold-out MTS Centre.
Both clubs came into the game with 28 points, but the Jets improved to 14-11-2 to vault in front.
The Jets, 7-3-1 in their last 11 games, also moved a point back of the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, who have the third spot in the conference standings.
New York fell to 13-11-2.
Antti Miettinen's first goal of the year, coming off a Dustin Byfuglien point shot that bounced of Miettinen's stick and then his shoulder, was the winner in the second period.
Nik Antropov scored on the power play early in the first period for the Jets, and captain Andrew Ladd notched his 14th goal of the year with an empty-netter. Dustin Byfuglien had two assists.
"It's a big two points for us," said Byfuglien, the Jets' 6-foot-5, 265-pound blue liner who delivered several punishing hits to go with another tremendous game offensively. "This puts us above the line. We have to build off this and keep moving forward."
Ryan Callahan had the only goal of the game, his ninth of the year, for the Rangers, who had three first-period breakaways -- including a penalty shot by Marian Gaborik -- but were stopped each time by Ondrej Pavelec. He made 28 saves.
The Winnipeg netminder had it relatively easy in the third period as the Jets did a good job protecting a 2-1 lead.
"I think in that third period we played really well," said Pavelec, tested only seven times in the final frame. "That's the biggest difference from last year, that we are able to close the games. They didn't have much in the third, so it was a great effort from us."
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves.
The victory came just two nights after the Jets thumped the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.
Veteran defendeman Ron Hainsey called the back-to-back wins "two of the best games that we've played as a team in the four-and-a-half years that I've been part of this.
"These were very good games. There were a lot of good performances from everybody."
The Jets led 1-0 and 2-1 at the period breaks.
On the game's first shift, Byfuglien laid a crushing open-ice hit on Rangers center Derek Stepan that sent Jet fans into a frenzy.
The Jets went on a power play just over a minute later when Michael Del Zotto took a penalty for cross-checking, and Antropov banged in a rebound off a Byfuglien point blast for his third goal of the season.
The Jets were outshooting the Rangers 11-2 through 11 minutes, but it was two saves by Pavelec on two straight breakaways by Gaborik that proved most memorable through the opening 20 minutes.
He made a pad save on the first one, but Gaborik was awarded a penalty shot after Zach Bogosian hooked him as he got the shot away. On the penalty shot, Gaborik tried a deke, only to be denied again by Pavelec.
"At first, I didn't even know there was a penalty shot. I just stopped the first breakaway. And then I saw the puck in the middle at center ice and I thought, 'All right, another one,'" Pavelec said. "(Gaborik) kind of slowed down, he lost it a little bit and then I just tried to poke check and I hit the puck."
Four minutes later, Rick Nash slid behind the Jets defense but fired wide on the Rangers' third breakaway of the period.
A sloppy start in the second period by the Jets led directly to a goal by Callahan, who deflected a shot past Pavelec at 1:11.
The Jets regained the one-goal lead when Byfuglien's wrist shot from the point bounded off Miettinen and fell behind Lundqvist at 14:52.
The goal was the first of the year for Miettinen, playing his seventh game of an injury-plagued season.
Ladd scored into an empty net with just 39 seconds left for his 14th goal of the year.
Rangers coach John Tortorella lamented his club's lack of finish.
"I thought we had some good chances through the first two periods. We have a breakaway, we have a penalty shot. Nash and Richards have some good looks," he said. "You aren't going to win many games scoring one goal.
"(Lundqvist) gave us a chance, but we couldn't keep the puck in the third period. They checked us, they just backed up and did a good job defensively and we couldn't develop anything. So we pack up and get out of here and just try to get better as a hockey club."
NOTES: The Jets hadn't surrendered a goal in 25 straight short-handed situations entering Thursday's game. The streak stretched over nine consecutive games. ... Winnipeg left winger Evander Kane led the NHL in shots on goal with 116 coming into the game. ... Jets forward Alex Burmistrov was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Goalie Al Montoya aggravated a lower-body injury in practice and didn't dress. The Jets recalled Eddie Pasquale from the St. John's IceCaps to serve as the backup to Pavelec. ... Defensemen Stu Bickel and Matt Gilroy did not dress for New York.

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