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Jets drop third straight game in 3-0 loss to Rangers


For the Winnipeg Jets, it was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Sure, they got to bid farewell to a pair of high-flying Florida teams that lit them up for 13 goals in back-to-back blowout losses last weekend. But the reward was being greeted by one of the NHL’s stingiest clubs, the New York Rangers, who smothered them with a Broadway-sized blanket and beat them 3-0 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

A slightly more respectable loss, perhaps. But still two more points out the window, and no shortage of post-game frustration that has become a staple as of late. Despite some tidier play in their own end, don’t try painting this latest effort as some kind of moral victory or sign of progress with forward Pierre-Luc Dubois.

“It’s been like this the whole year,” the visibly frustrated 23-year-old said in a Zoom call, with plenty of deep sighs and long pauses between answers.

“It just feels like, you know, the fun part of hockey is winning games. Within the game the fun part is dominating. It’s playing the full 60 minutes of the other team feeling like they’re trying to catch up to you, to your pace, to your puck movement, to your pressure,” Dubois continued.



<p>Winnipeg Jets’ Paul Stastny skates with the puck against New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider during the first period. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)</p>
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Winnipeg Jets’ Paul Stastny skates with the puck against New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider during the first period. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

“I think that’s what’s frustrating. There’s some nights where it just feels like we’re playing catch up, even if we’re close, even if it’s a close game. With the talent we have, I think we can do a much better job of forcing teams to play our way, and not us feeling like we’re trying to catch up to their pace, trying to catch up to their puck movement and their breakouts and everything.”

Winnipeg is now 35-31-11, having been outscored 16-5 through the first three games of this four-game Eastern Conference road trip that mercifully ends Thursday in Carolina. By then, the Jets could be officially eliminated from the playoffs. Dallas just needs a single point on Wednesday in their game against Edmonton to put the final nail in Winnipeg’s coffin.

Dubois sounded downright envious at the style of hockey he’s witnessed from Florida, Tampa and New York, who are all the legitimate Stanley Cup contenders some thought Winnipeg might be this season.

“You look at how they play, they play so fast. They get the puck, there’s no thinking, they’re gone. They trust each other with the puck, they have guys slashing across on the breakouts, the D is jumping,” he said.

“You look at those teams and they take risks, and I think if you’re not risking anything, you might not be giving anything up but at the same time you might not be getting anything either. Teams like that they re-load fast. We have to be faster than them. I just think we can do a better job of forcing, especially the good teams, to adapt to our pace and adapt to our mindset, and not us chase after them.”

New York improves to 50-21-6, good for a share of first place in the Metropolitan Division with the Hurricanes. They’ve won three straight games, all by shutouts.



<p>New York Rangers’ Barclay Goodrow checks Winnipeg Jets’ Logan Stanley into the boards during the second period. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)</p>
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New York Rangers’ Barclay Goodrow checks Winnipeg Jets’ Logan Stanley into the boards during the second period. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

In that sense, it felt like this game was pretty much over as soon as Ryan Strome scored on beautiful three-way passing play with Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin at 15:57 of the second period to break a scoreless tie. Jets forward Morgan Barron, playing the team that traded him last month for Andrew Copp, was in the penalty box at the time for high-sticking Filip Chytil. And defenceman Logan Stanley, playing for a second straight game over healthy scratch Dylan Samberg, got caught in no man’s land on the goal.

Winnipeg had its share of chances both before and after the New York goal — Zach Sanford rang one off the post, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mason Appleton and Blake Wheeler all had good looks — but it was going to take a herculean effort to beat Igor Shesterkin, the runaway Vezina Trophy favourite who now boasts a league-leading .936 save percentage, along with a sparkling 2.01 goals-against-average and six shutouts on the year.

“I would say that the score isn’t really reflective of the game that we played,” said interim coach Dave Lowry, opting to focus on the silver linings he saw.

“I really thought that after giving up that first goal, prior to that we had a lot of control of momentum. Unfortunately we make a mistake and it’s in the back of our net. In the second period, I liked what we were generating, I liked how we were creating and how we were attacking. We got good zone time and you know what, in the first period I thought we did a really good job of defending. I know the zone time isn’t reflective but it was the quality of chances that we did not give up tonight.”

The hole became even bigger at 11:47 of the third period when Rangers defenceman Adam Fox fired a long-range wrist shot through traffic that beat a screened Eric Comrie. Copp, who had 13 points in his first 13 games with New York since the big trade, drew a helper on the play, then added another apple on Strome’s empty-netter in the final minute.

“I thought that tonight we played a real solid game and deserved a better fate,” said Lowry. “The way that we played tonight. The compete, the battle, the urgency and the effort is something that we will continue to demand. I thought that our guys played extremely hard and did a lot of good things. Unfortunately, we weren’t rewarded for it. With the remaining games, that’s what the expectation is.”



<p>New York Rangers’ Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider celebrate a goal by Strome against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)</p>
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New York Rangers’ Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider celebrate a goal by Strome against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period Tuesday in New York. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

Comrie, making just his 13th start in 77 games, gave his club a fighting chance in stopping 31 of 33 shots. Unfortunately, the guy at the other end was a perfect 31-for-31.

“I always want that challenge. I think you always want to say you’re better than the guy across from you and just do the best you can to beat that guy,” Comrie said.

Connor Hellebuyck, who got the hook in both Florida games last weekend, didn’t even dress on Tuesday night. He’s battling a non-COVID illness, which prompted the club to recall Manitoba Moose starter Mikhail Berdin to serve as Comrie’s backup. With the Jets out of playoff contention, it might mean getting Comrie a bit more work down the stretch, especially with Hellebuyck playing more minutes and facing more shots than any other NHL netminder.

“I look at it this way: there’s only a certain number of things in life that you can control. You can control how hard you work, you can control if you showed up on time, you can control your attitude, and I try and control those things to the best of my abilities and let the rest take care of itself,” Comrie said of trying to keep a positive attitude during a trying season for his team.

“I try not to get too up and down. I try and stay positive and hard-working. It’s kind of the model I live my life by.”

Samberg and Adam Brooks were the healthy scratches, while Mark Scheifele and Cole Perfetti remain out of the lineup with injuries.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

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