In the end, this was a long night on the ice for the Rangers, which was a good and a bad thing. The good was celebrating Vic Hadfield Night and raising No. 11 to the rafters before the game - then jumping out to a three-goal lead after that. Less happy was watching that lead evaporate over the final period and having to settle for one point on the night.
The Winnipeg Jets came storming back with three third-period goals to force this game to overtime, then spoiled the Rangers' perfect record in shootouts this season, sending the Blueshirts to a 4-3 shootout loss at Madison Square Garden.
Mark Scheifele, Jack Roslovic and Bryan Little each scored in the final frame for the Jets, who outshot the Rangers 42-19 and improved to 2-0 on their three-game NYC-area trip.
"That's one heck of a hockey team," David Quinn said afterward. "Probably the best team we've seen all year."
The Rangers added another home-ice point to their ledger but lost for the fifth time in six games (1-4-1), and now will have five days of rest and practice before resuming their schedule on Saturday night against the Panthers in Florida.
On this night, the Blueshirts were all on the home bench at the Garden by about 4:30 p.m. to witness Hadfield's No. 11 retired to make the GAG Line complete in the Garden rafters. The left-wing legend who was the first 50-goal scorer in Rangers history became the 10th man to have his number retired by the club, and near the end of his speech to the Garden crowd said: "I sincerely wish everyone here experiences something in your life that will make you feel the way I do right now."
Video: Vic Hadfield Night Ceremony
And so an emotional evening that began with one of the Rangers' goaltending greats, Eddie Giacomin, leading out a parade of Blueshirts legends in celebration of Hadfield, continued with a sterling performance by the Rangers' current 14th-year goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves in regulation and overtime, managing to keep a lid on one of the league's highest-scoring teams just long enough for the Rangers to secure a point.
But Lundqvist - who entered the game 2-0 this season in shootouts, and 5-for-6 in shootout attempts - was beaten by Patrik Laine and Scheifele in the skills competition, with Scheifele's game-deciding goal coming after Jimmy Vesey had shot wide of Connor Hellebuyck. It was the Rangers' first loss in five shootouts this season.
The Rangers held a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes on goals by Jesper Fast, Marc Staal and Chris Kreider, which provided enough cushion to get them a point for the ninth time in their last 10 home games (8-1-1). But more than celebrating that, the Rangers were regretting the one they left on the table.
Video: WPG@NYR: Fast celebrates birthday with opening goal
"Really we lost that point instead of gaining one point," said Mika Zibanejad, whose two assists in the game give him six points over his last four outings. "There are good things we can take with us, and there are things we can work on."
That they did not come away emptyhanded was due in large part to Lundqvist, who had 24 saves and a shutout going once the third period got underway.
"Our goalie was outstanding from the drop of the puck," Quinn said. "He's as good as there is out there, in my opinion. He's unbelievable - he's the reason we've got the record we have. Everybody talks about where we're at - let's be honest here, this guy has been outstanding from Day 1.
"There's a lot of things we've done pretty well so far too, but he's the guy. He's been our best player."
Video: WPG@NYR: Lundqvist slides across to deny Roslovic
At the other end, the Rangers built their advantage by scoring three times on 11 shots against Hellebuyck in the opening 40 minutes. Zibanejad hopped right into a rush out of the penalty box and played catch with Fast until the Swedish winger finished the play 17:32 into the game, then Staal picked up his second of the season at 12:11 of the second with a perfect wrister inside the far post off a Ryan Strome steal.
Just after Blake Wheeler's interference minor had expired, Zibanejad shot wide of the net for Kreider to redirect it behind Hellebuyck for the 3-0 lead 1:06 from second intermission.
Video: WPG@NYR: Kreider tips home Zibanejad's long shot
"We felt good going into the third, and you want to close that out," said Staal, who scored for the second time in four games. "That early power play, we're giving them one too many chances on the power play, and you can't do that. It changes the whole dynamic of the period - they get that one and then they're just coming and coming."
The Jets had entered the game with the League's second-ranked power play at 29.3 percent, and that early man-advantage the Rangers gave them came 1:56 into the third when Brendan Smith was whistled for a cross check. It led 14 seconds later to Scheifele's power-play one-timer between Lundqvist's pads.
"We take that early penalty and that's just not the way you want to start that third period," Lundqvist said.
Roslovic cut it to 3-2 just 2:26 after Scheifele's goal, finding space to walk in from the blue line on a play in which Zibanejad felt the Rangers "get a little bit too passive." Little completed the comeback with 2:30 to play, crashing the net for a rebound after Lundqvist had made a kick save on Nikolaj Ehlers and was down and out. "We tried to survive for two periods and then finally they got a goal and they just kept coming," Lundqvist said. "That's the feeling I had the whole game. We tried our best, we got a point, but they're good. They made it really tough on us to get going."
The Rangers had not lost three consecutive games since starting the season 0-3. They play a pair next weekend in Florida before returning for a three-game homestand.
In between now and all that, they will have five idle days beginning Monday. Asked what he wanted these five days to be about, Quinn responded: "Rest - and kind of address some of the things that we addressed early in the season when we had a lot of practice time and you get back to a little bit of blocking and tackling and basics, things that we need to freshen up on. But certainly rest will be part of it."
"Hopefully we can start getting back a couple guys that need to be in the lineup - they're some important pieces," Lundqvist added. "And then just continue to work on the small things that we need to do a little bit better.
"We got away from our game a little bit I think the last week or so - this is an opportunity for us now to work on it this week, and remind ourselves why we've had success. We relied a lot on hard work and attention to details, and that's how we're going to get back on track."
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