For those who were clinging to hopes of a perfect season, the Rangers won’t be going 82-0-0. Bryan Little and the Winnipeg Jets made certain of that dealing the Rangers a 4-1 loss at MSG. The Jets completed a tour of the metro area going 2-1-0 and finished 3-1-0 on a four-game road trip to start the year.
Little scored twice and Michael Hutchinson made 40 saves to end the Rangers’ three-game win streak. They lost their first game despite out-shooting the Jets 41-29. The difference was special teams with the Jets scoring three times including 2-for-5 on the power play and a back breaking Little shorthanded goal at 18:49 of the second period that proved to be the winner.
”Our guys know we weren’t where we wanted to be, where we needed to be,” a disappointed Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said of an empty night with his team going 0-for-5 on the power play while allowing a shorthanded goal and two PPG’s. ”Mentally we weren’t sharp with the puck with our decision making. A lot of turnovers in the neutral zone, not making the right reads on when to go to the net, when to put the puck towards the net and you know we proved how important it is to be mentally sharp all the way through the game.”
It didn’t start out that way. Rick Nash forced a turnover leading directly to Derick Brassard setting up Mats Zuccarello for his third 6:45 into the contest. But the lead was short lived following a Kevin Hayes hooking minor. Nikolaj Ehlers replied back on the power play 46 seconds later.
The Jets took some ill advised penalties handing the Rangers opportunities. But they failed to take advantage. At one point in the second, Winnipeg gave the Blueshirts three consecutive man-advantages. But they were all too predictable over skating and over passing resulting in sloppy turnovers for easy Jets clears. Alain Vigneault even went with a different look on the fifth power play trying J.T. Miller on the top unit. But it didn’t accomplish anything.
Entering play, Little had yet to record a point in Winnipeg’s first three games. You had to figure he’d break out. Off a clean face-off win, his wrist shot from the circle went past a screened Henrik Lundqvist to put the Jets ahead with 1:11 left in the second. Jacob Trouba got the lone assist. Still with time left on the power play, the Rangers were too stationary leading to the first boos at the end of the period.
”We had 41 shots so it’s not that we didn’t have some looks,” Rangers alternate captain Derek Stepan said after his team fired blanks in the second despite a 20-8 shots edge. ”We’ll have to make adjustments, we’ll have to get some guys in front of the goaltender and find ways to score goals. I think our main focus now is obviously to get better as a team and that’s something you always strive for.”
The issue was they didn’t get to any rebounds. They got looks including a close call with Nash but were unable to get the puck past Hutchinson who improved to 2-0-0 on the season. Along with bad special teams, it was a predictable end result.
They lost their composure in the third taking some uncharacteristic penalties. The Rangers took three straight minors including a Brassard slash that allowed Little to get his second of the game from Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler.
”It’s always big when you have a good special teams night,” Little said. “Special teams is a big part of the game now. We really focus on that in practice and it’s nice when it comes together.”
With less than three minutes left, Vigneault sent Lundqvist off for an extra attacker. But as had been the case throughout, the Jets out-worked and out-hustled the Rangers by negating an icing. Eventually, Adam Lowry handed for Mark Stuart who scored into an open net with 2:04 left.
Battle Of NY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg (assist, +2 in 22:16 with 2 hits and 2 blocks)
2nd Star-Bryan Little, Winnipeg (scored 1st 2 goals of year incl. GW SHG and PPG)
1st Star-Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg (40 saves incl. 20/20 in busy 2nd)
Game Notes: In his season debut, Rangers D Dylan McIlrath didn’t see a ton of ice-time due to all the penalties. However, he got 21 shifts logging 12:20 of ice-time with 2 shots, a hit and blocked shot while hitting the post. Does he stay in for Montreal or will Vigneault go back to the more experienced Dan Boyle for the Canadiens home opener? … One positive was face-offs with the Rangers winning decidedly 34-22 led by Dominic Moore (7-and-2), Jarret Stoll (3-for-3), Miller (2-for-2) and Brassard (9-7). The Jets best was Little (9-and-9). …
With Boyle sitting, Kevin Klein saw power play time getting 3:19 due to his good shot. … Key Stat: Giveaways Winnipeg-7 Rangers-15 (Kreider 3) … In his fourth start, Lundqvist turned aside 25 of 28. With a day off before visiting Montreal, does he get a fifth straight start against Carey Price? I would assume so with the Blueshirts having two days in a row off before a back-to-back against the Devils and Sharks Oct. 18-19.