NEW YORK - Outside of a four-minute and four-second span late in the second period Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets were the better team.
But it doesn't take long for one of the NHL's most offensively gifted teams to make you pay for your lack of attention. The New York Rangers did just that, breaking a 2-2 tie with goals on three consecutive shots to give them a 5-2 lead and, eventually, a win by that same margin at Madison Square Garden.
The Jets outshot the Rangers 9-1 in the third period, but Henrik Lundqvist had a superb night between the pipes. Connor Hellebuyck, meanwhile, was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots. Michael Hutchinson came on in relief and stopped two of three in the final 21:18.
Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele scored Winnipeg's two goals.
The Jets will now head home with three of a possible six points on the road.
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
"Unsatisfied (with that number) in that the quality of our game warranted more than three points," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "I'm not saying we deserved (more), I'm just saying that we've played well enough in our last four or five games to put together a nice run here.
"But, given our schedule, given our injuries, that's a hell of a job. We'll take it."
The Jets were taking it to the Rangers in the early part of the second period before a lucky bounce put the home side back on top, for good. Dustin Byfuglien wiped out at the offensive blue line, giving the Rangers a 3-on-1 back the other way. Mats Zuccarello made no mistake, rifling a shot over Hellebuyck's right shoulder.
Video: WPG@NYR: Scheifele cleans up loose puck in front
Scheifele got it right back, cleaning up the rebound after Nikolaj Ehlers and Paul Postma hooked up for a great chance off the rush, but the Rangers took a 3-2 lead soon after. J.T. Miller took the puck down the right side and fired a shot top shelf, beating Hellebuyck on the short side once again.
"We were in a little wobbly in the first four or five minutes but right through to the 30-minute mark I really liked our game," Maurice said. "I think we were a little bit guilty of getting a little too excited with our zone time and some of the lateral plays that we tried to make instead of getting the puck right to the net, that's what they're good at - they'll transition and shoot off the rush, and we got burned by it."
The Rangers took their first two-goal lead of the night at 16:24 as Jesper Fast got a piece of Kevin Klein's bullet from the right point, tipping it just past the extended right pad of the goaltender and the rout was on. That spelled the end of the night for Hellebuyck, who was victimized on three straight shots to before getting the hook. Hutchinson came on in relief, but that did little to quell the onslaught.
The first shot he faced was a breakaway, as Pavel Buchnevich beat Alexander Burmistrov 1-on-1, crossed the goalmouth and chipped the puck over the sprawling netminder to put the Jets in a deep hole.
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
"I feel like in the games we get behind by too much, that's the story," captain Blake Wheeler said of the effort, and the team's ability to play well, even if the scoreboard doesn't agree. "Most of it is pretty good, but then there's a block of it that just gets away from us and before you know it, it's out of our reach."
The Jets have now been outscored 21-4 in second periods this season.
"Two of the four I'd like (Hellebuyck) to have, but they're also pretty good shots," Maurice said. "Our goaltending is like our defence, which is like our forwards. We're going to have real good performances and every once in a while we're going to have a rough one. They're going to have to come back to work tomorrow, too."
Kevin Hayes opened the scoring for the Rangers on a delayed penalty, 2:13 into the first period. Hayes took a pass from Klein at the right point and hammered a one-timer past Hellebuyck on the blocker side, giving him six on the year and a team-leading 12 points.
Laine tied things up with a tip in at 10:45 after Winnipeg's top line hemmed the Blueshirts in their own end for almost a minute and a half. As Ben Chiarot pulled the puck off the boards and into a shooting position, Laine bowled his way to net and gave his defenceman a target from five feet out.
Video: WPG@NYR: Laine scores on fantastic deflection in 1st
The youngster now has a share of the NHL lead with eight goals this season.
Andrew Copp had a great chance to put the Jets on a rebound from a Chris Thorburn shot, but his attempt on the opposite side drifted wide of the empty net and caught the near-side post.
"We had the puck offensively a lot and we had a lot of chances that we should have scored on," Ehlers said. "I, myself, had three breakaways that I could have put in. It was a tough game, but it could have gone either way."
The Rangers outshot the Jets 11-8 in the opening frame. Hellebuyck was the busier of the two netminders with a higher percentage of quality chances fired his way, but the goalie was up to the task. His best work came late in the period when Mika Zibanejad found Chris Kreider on a 2-on-1, but Hellebuyck went post-to-post to make a terrific toe save on the goal line.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com