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Jets Spoil Rangers Homecoming and Halt Unlikely Playoff Push

The Broadway Blueshirts swept their 3-game Western Canada road trip, but they were unable to continue the momentum in their return home. After losing to the Rangers in Winnipeg a month ago, the Jets avenged their defeat with a decisive 3-0 victory tonight at Madison Square Garden.

It looked like the Blueshirts would escape a lopsided first period unscathed, until Patrik Laine opened the scoring, firing a laser past Henrik Lundqvist with under a minute left in the frame. The Jets caught a break on this one, as it looked like Paul Stasny should have been penalized for interfering with John Gilmour, but there was no call made. Surrendering 16 shots in just the first 20 minutes, the Boys in Blue were lucky to still be in striking distance when they headed to the locker room for the break.

Generating tons of chances and odd-man-rushes, the Rangers came out hard after the intermission. About halfway through the middle period, Laine extended Winnipeg’s lead with his second tally of the night. The Finnish sniper was again granted way too much time and space, which resulted in another lethal wrist-shot that ended up in the back of the net. There was a major defensive-lapse on this one, as the former second-round draft pick skated right into ‘the slot’ completely uncontested. After two periods, the Rangers were being heavily outshot 28-19.

In the third period, Winnipeg smartly aired on the side of caution, as they decided to sit back and protected their lead. The Jets only produced 6 shots on goal in the frame, but that would be enough. With three minutes remaining in the contest, Alain Vigneault decided to go for broke and sent out an extra-attacker. With Henrik Lundqvist out of his cage, the Blueshirts were unable to convert on a flurry of chances, and with under a minute to go, Patrik Laine completed the hat-trick (with his dad in attendance), as he sent a shot from the neutral zone into the empty-net. Laine’s hat-trick served as his first of the campaign, yet the fourth of his young career. The 19-year-old is now second in the NHL in goals, and is only two shy of Alex Ovechkin’s league-leading 40. Having posted 12 goals in his last 9 games, Laine is on a tear. The youngster has already shattered his rookie-season-total of 36 tallies.

Winnipeg’s triumph tonight increased their winning-streak to three games. Because of his extended absence due to a concussion, tonight was Steve Mason’s first win and start since January 9th. Moreover, the clean-sheet marked the netminder’s first of the season, therefore his first as a member of the Jets. With their score-less performance tonight, the Rangers have now been shutout a total of four times this season; however, prior to tonight, the Blueshirts hadn’t been shutout by a Western Conference opponent since 2015 (Chicago). Furthermore, tonight’s defeat ruined what had been a ‘perfect’ month of March thus far for Alain Vigneault’s rejuvenated squad.

As mentioned earlier the Rangers had no shortage of scoring chances tonight, including two glorious opportunities on which Mats Zuccarello couldn’t convert. Steve Mason wasn’t tested all that much, as the Rangers seemed to shoot wide of the net on a number of occasions. Despite the loss, Henrik Lundqvist was solid between the pipes for the Blueshirts.

For the Jets, they continue to solidify their status as a Western Conference powerhouse, and look like they will finish as the runner-ups of the Central Division. On the other hand, the Rangers watch as their revived playoff hopes begin to dwindle again. The Rangers now have only a 1.3% chance of qualifying for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (per SportsClubStats).

At the conclusion of tonight’s tilt, the Rangers hit the road for a short trip to the Sunshine State. On Thursday the Blueshirts will battle some familiar faces as they face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which will be followed by a clash against the Florida Panthers on Saturday (7:30 PM, MSG).

Brian Paget is on Twitter @BrianPaget17

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