WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP)Mark Scheifele scored twice and the Winnipeg Jets beat the New York Rangers 4-1 Friday night to win their season opener.
Sam Gagner also scored and Kyle Connor added an empty-netter for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 40 shots.
”This team played the right way,” Hellebuyck said. ”It was a great team win tonight, and we needed everyone and we got everyone. It’s a great building step and I think the character in this locker room is just going to continue to show and grow.”
Dryden Hunt had a goal for and backup goalie Jaroslav Halak finished with 30 saves in his Rangers debut. New York was playing its third game of the season, and the second half of a back-to-back after a 7-3 win at Minnesota on Thursday.’
”We were not great in the first,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”I thought we played a real good second. And then in the third, I think we ran out of gas so we made a lot of mistakes in the defensive zone, which usually happens from mental mistakes and tired mistakes. … We created a lot of chances, but we just gave up way too much.”
Gagner, signed by the Jets last month, got the puck in front and put the rebound of his own shot past Halak to put Winnipeg up 2-1 with 4:25 remaining in the game.
Scheifele got his second of the night on a power play as he fired a one-timer from the left circle off a cross-ice pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois with 1:37 to go for a two-goal lead.
Connor completed the scoring with 20 seconds left.
Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers displayed his speed on Scheifele’s first goal. Ehlers raced behind New York’s net, got the puck and sent a backhand pass up to Scheifele in the circle and he beat Halak at 10:29 of the first period.
”(Hellebuyck) made some big saves when we needed him to and then, in the third period, we got back to our game and we got pucks deep and we’re a pretty tough team when we do that,” Scheifele said.
A minute earlier, Hellebuyck showed his quickness with his blocker. As Rangers forward Artemi Panarin came out of the penalty box for slashing, he grabbed a pass and went at Hellebuyck on a breakaway but his backhand shot was deflected.
The Winnipeg goalie made a snapping glove save on Alexis Lafreniere and had plenty of traffic around him when New York went on the power play with 3:02 left in the period.
On the other end, Halak denied a one-timer by Scheifele and New York broke up Winnipeg’s 3-on-1 surge.
Hunt tied it at 3:55 of the third after he controlled a pass from Vincent Trocheck that hit his skate, moved the puck to his stick and beat Hellebuyck from the right side of the net. Panarin also picked up an assist.
”It’s two pretty good players so I just tried to get open,” Hunt said of his teammates. ”When you get an opportunity like that, especially with coming into the lineup, you kind of want to make the most of it.”
The Rangers’ new captain Jacob Trouba played his 600th career NHL game against the team that drafted him in 2012 (ninth overall). Trouba, who played 408 games with the Jets before being traded to the Rangers in June 2019, was booed early in the game by some fans when he had the puck.
”It doesn’t really bug me, I guess. It just is what it is,” Trouba said of the heckling.
The game was supposed to be the debut of new Jets coach Rick Bowness, but the team announced earlier in the day that the 67-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19. Associate coach Scott Arneil ran the bench in Bowness’ place.
”Not the way I dreamed it up but, yeah, just at the end of morning skate Rick wasn’t feeling great and called me around 3:30, 4 o’clock and was just, obviously, it had hit him pretty hard,” Arniel said.
Panarin now has a goal and five assists through three games. The last Rangers players to record five or more assists through the same span were Mark Messier and Brian Leetch in 1992-93.
Rangers: Host Anaheim on Monday night to open a four-game homestand.
Jets: At Dallas on Monday night to begin a three-game trip.
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