For most of their ascent toward the top of the Metropolitan Division, the New York Rangers produced enough offense to move them forward. Recently, their defense appears to be catching up.
Coming off consecutive shutouts, the Rangers will attempt to continue their defensive ways Tuesday when they host the fading Winnipeg Jets.
New York (49-21-6, 104 points) heads into Tuesday with a shutout streak of 120 minutes, six seconds after following up Wednesday’s 4-0 blanking at Philadelphia with Saturday afternoon’s 4-0 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings.
Those two wins gave the Rangers points in 10 of their past 12 games (9-2-1), a stretch in which they have allowed one goal or fewer six times. Their recent performances have pulled them even with the Hurricanes for points in the division, but their 41 regulation wins are one fewer than Carolina entering play Monday.
On Saturday, Igor Shesterkin made 20 saves. It marked the fourth straight game and the 11th time in 12 games that the Rangers conceded fewer than 30 shots.
New York’s strong defensive effort resulted in its offense getting 37 shots on goal and two goals from Alexis Lafreniere. It was the Rangers’ fourth straight game with at least 30 shots and the ninth instance in the past 13 games.
“It’s a high-powering offensive team and we can play defense, too, when we need to. Defense wins hockey games,” New York forward Frank Vatrano said. “Doesn’t matter how many goals you score — obviously it’s great to score goals — but coming down the stretch here coming into the playoffs, it’s about keeping the puck out of your net and playing a good team defensive game.”
Winnipeg (35-30-11, 81 points) is 10 points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild-card spot in the West but is also trailing the Vegas Golden Knights (87 points) and Vancouver Canucks (84 points).
The Jets, who last missed the playoffs in the 2016-17 season, are on a 2-5-1 slide since winning 11 of 16 (11-4-1) from Feb. 27 to March 30. During the slide, Winnipeg owns losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning and has allowed 25 goals in those games.
Winnipeg heads to New York after a lost back-to-back set at Florida and Tampa Bay.
After enduring a 6-1 loss to the Panthers on Friday, things did not go much better Saturday in a 7-4 loss. The Jets held a 4-2 lead before allowing five goals in the final 26:04 in a game where they were outshot 37-18 after allowing 43 shots to the Panthers.
Kyle Connor scored his 43rd goal while Paul Stastny, Blake Wheeler and Josh Morrissey also scored before the frustrating finish.
“I don’t know whether it’s tired, you know, lack of motivation (in) some of the guys in the room or, you know, what it is, we’re definitely a frustrated group here,” Connor said. “It’s tough. Yeah, there’s a slight chance, but there is a chance to make the playoffs here. And, you know, two critical games and, you know, we put up that kind of effort.”
The Rangers have won the past three meetings and scored 14 goals in those games. Chris Kreider scored twice in New York’s 4-1 win in Winnipeg on March 6.
–Field Level Media