Mar 28, 2012; Winnipeg, MB, CAN; New York Rangers players celebrate a goal by forward Ryan Callahan (24) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE
Capping off a perfect night on special teams and as he has done so many times during the season, captain Callahan came up with a huge, difference-making play while N.Y. was shorthanded to change the momentum of a game squarely in favor of his Rangers.
Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto each scored a goal and added an assist during special teams situations to help bring the New York Rangers back from a two-goal deficit in an eventual 4-2 victory over the fading Winnipeg Jets Wednesday night at MTS Centre. The triumph secured a season sweep for New York with four wins against the Jets.
By virtue of the win, the Rangers took over the top spot in the NHL standings in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. New York is tied in points (105) with the St. Louis Blues, but the Broadway Blue Shirts get the nod via the tiebreaker, which is wins. N.Y. has 49, St. Louis 48. The Rangers have won five of their last six, including the last three, which were all on the road.
The loss drove another nail in the coffin of Winnipeg's postseason hopes, as the Jets have lost five of their last six games and trail the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres by eight points with just five contests remaining in their regular-season schedule.
One of the biggest factors in the triumph was New York's special teams play, during which the team picked up two power-play goals and killed off all five Winnipeg chances -- including three in the first period alone, one of which was a two-man Jets' advantage for 1:43 -- while scoring a shorthanded marker.
Winnipeg had taken a 2-0 lead early in the second period on goals by Spencer Machacek and Bryan Little separated by just 56 seconds, and the Rangers had little jump. As has often been the case over this season when the club needed a big play to swing the momentum, Callahan was the one to make the difference.
With Brandon Dubinsky in the penalty box and New York in the midst of a crucial penalty kill, Callahan carried the puck behind the Jets' cage and sent a pass to Del Zotto in front. The defenseman was able to sneak the puck past Ondrej Pavelec for the shorthanded goal and draw the Rangers to within 2-1 at 7:44 of the middle stanza.
Callahan added one of his own late in the second period while on a New York power play, and Del Zotto returned the favor by lending a helper on Callahan's tally. He sent a pass from the right point to Marian Gaborik at the left, and the Rangers winger flipped the puck toward the net with Callahan screening Pavelec. The captain redirected the feed on net, then rammed home the rebound for his 28th goal of the season with just 1:37 remaining in the session to make it a 2-2 game heading into the third period.
Gaborik finished the game with a pair of assists.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves in improving his record to 37-16-5, while Pavelec dropped his third in a row and fifth in the last six to even his mark at 28-28-7.