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Jets drop season opener to Rangers

Ehlers hits 200-point milestone in loss

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

NEW YORK- There was a lot to like about the Winnipeg Jets' effort in the season opener against the New York Rangers.

Unfortunately, the final result wasn't one of them.

Blake Wheeler scored twice with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor adding singles in a 6-4 Jets loss on Thursday night.

Nikolaj Ehlers, the left-winger with Wheeler and Scheifele, had three assists of his own in the setback.

"There are some things we need to tighten up on," said Ehlers. "We've got a lot of new players but that's not an excuse. We played a good game. Some bounces were against us and I think if we can continue this and keep improving and getting better, we have a hell of a team."

Video: WPG Recap: Wheeler scores twice in loss to Rangers

The seesaw affair saw the Jets erase three one-goal deficits before giving up a one-goal cushion of their own in the third period.

"There was a lot of real good stuff. Style of offensive game too, I didn't feel we cheated for it. We generated a lot of our offence by reloading and getting back above pucks and turning it back in on them," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

"(But) you give up five - I know there were six - but you give up five, so you can't be bragging about that game either."

The eventual game-winner came off a Rangers stick with 4:09 to go in regulation. With the game tied at four, Brett Howden jumped on a loose puck that banked off a Jets defenceman and beat Connor Hellebuyck.

The empty-netter during a 6-on-4 Jets power play late sealed the deal.

"I felt like I played a lot better than five goals against," said Hellebuyck, who finished with 26 saves. "I don't know, it seemed like the puck was always in the wrong spot for me tonight. If I look back at my tape, I probably wouldn't do a lot different."

Video: WPG@NYR: Scheifele buries quick shot from the slot

I have to do something because five goals is unacceptable.

Despite some strong early zone time from the Jets that resulted in two power plays, it would be the Rangers that opened the scoring.

Marc Staal wrapped around the Jets net tucking home a wrap-around through the legs of Hellebuyck.

But the Jets kept the pressure up and found the equalizer with 2:27 to go in the opening frame. Following strong cycle work along the left-wing boards by Wheeler and Ehlers, the Danish forward slid a feed to Scheifele in the slot. From there, Scheifele made no mistake beating Henrik Lundqvist on the glove side.

That trio was buzzing all night, combining for 21 shots on goal.

"My legs felt really good. I was able to use my speed in the right situations," Ehlers said. "The other two guys were getting in the right positions. It wasn't enough, but I think personally I took a step."

Video: WPG@NYR: Wheeler scores off a pass from Ehlers

New York snagged the lead back on Artemi Panarin's first goal as a Ranger, a power play marker 27 seconds into the middle frame. But that lead lasted all of 30 seconds.

Ville Heinola sent a feed up to Ehlers, who flew down the left wing and slipped a perfect centering pass to Wheeler, who tapped home his first of the season through the legs of Lundqvist.

For Heinola, it was his first NHL point in a game that saw him finish with 18:24 of ice time, two hits, and two blocked shots.

"He didn't make any mistakes early, but I thought after his third or fourth shift he looked like he had been there before," Maurice said. "I like him when he has the puck on his stick and positionally he's right. I thought he played a real fine game for your first NHL game."

Then, when Jacob Trouba's point shot beat a screened Hellebuyck to give the Rangers the lead for a third time, Wheeler responded by beating Lundqvist five-hole nine seconds after that.

A delay of game penalty from Brady Skjei put the Jets on the power play for the fifth time - and this time they found the back of the net.

Josh Morrissey showed great patience at the blue line and when a shot lane opened, he sent a wrist shot toward the net that Connor deflected through Lundqvist's legs. That put the Jets ahead for the first time in the game, 4-3.

"We played a lot of that game how we wanted to. We played a lot of the game in their end. We certainly controlled a good bulk of it," Wheeler said of the Jets, who outshot the Rangers 47-32. "Maybe we weren't able to get the separation goal there when we got the lead. We had some good looks down there and spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. Their D was hanging on for dear life at the end there. We just gave up too many good looks in the third to close them out."

Just as the Jets had done early in the game, the Rangers responded with Mika Zibanejad breaking in alone and beating Hellebuyck over the blocker with a backhand.

It was the first of three unanswered from the Rangers to close out the game.

The Jets get back at it tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils with Laurent Brossoit getting the start in goal.

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