WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It's becoming evident the Rangers long for Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts dropped their seventh straight road game to a Jets team that has trouble keeping the puck out of its own net this season.
The Rangers fell, 5-2, Friday night to complete their pre-holiday road schedule, Although they are still 5-3-1 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season, the luster of their strong start to the season is all but a fading memory as they fell to 3-8-2 in their last 13 and haven’t won on the road since Nov. 21.
The Rangers came out sluggishly against the Jets, who had dropped three of their previous four games, are without No. 1 goaltender Ondrej Pavelec because of a knee injury and were forced to ride rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck. They also are the second-most penalized team in the NHL and are ranked 27th in penalty kill.
Jets winger Blake Wheeler set up four goals, including both of Bryan Little’s scores in the opening 7:34 of the first period.
After recording his 11th goal of the season at 5:03 of the period by patiently outwaiting a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist before lifting the puck over him, Little got his 12th only 2:31 later, again waiting patiently net side for a redirect of a long pass from Wheeler.
Both clubs had to stay patient, too, with no red light or signal from the official after Little’s second goal before a stoppage in play allowed the video review booth to determine the puck rang the iron inside the Rangers net.
J.T. Miller cut Winnipeg’s lead to 2-1 with 5:59 left in the opening period, picking up a Kevin Hayes rebound and finding a way to slide it under Hellebuyck while falling down.
Winnipeg restored itsr two-goal lead late in the first, with Mark Scheifele beating Derek Stepan off the draw and dropping it back to Dustin Byfuglien, who let an elevating slapper go from the point, beating Lundqvist stick side.
Fruitless in two power-play opportunities in Minnesota, the Rangers found success in one of their two in Winnipeg as Dan Boyle grabbed a loose puck on the edge of the circle and fired home a quick wrister for his third goal of the season to cut the Jets’ lead to 3-2.
Lundqvist was busy, stopping 31 of the 35 shots he faced on the night. And the Rangers’ No. 1 goaltender was really coach Alain Vigneault’s only option in the back-to-back scenario, with rookie Magnus Hellberg on the bench and Antti Raanta out with a head injury suffered the previous night in Minnesota, when he took a Marco Scandella slap shot to the mask.
Winnipeg went up by two again late in the second as Tyler Myers’ wrist shot from the top of the circle beat Lundqvist to his glove side. With Lundqvist pulled for the extra attacker, Jets captain Andrew Ladd added an empty-netter with 1:00 remaining.
The Rangers return to the Garden to host the e Washington Capitals on Sunday and the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.