WINNIPEG, MB - Another game, another goal scoring clinic from Patrik Laine, and a perfect return to the net for Steve Mason led the Winnipeg Jets to a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
The win may have come at a price for the Jets as Mark Scheifele left the game late in the second period with what the Jets are calling an upper-body injury and did not return. Earlier this season Scheifele was sidelined for 16 games with an upper-body injury.
In the opening period Scheifele and Blake Wheeler collided at centre ice and both players were shaken up on the play. Jets fans took a collective sigh of relief to see both players return for their next shift, but after taking a few more solid hits, Scheifele retreated to the dressing room with just under four minutes to go in the middle frame and did not return. The Jets top-line center had 13 points (6G, 7A) in 12 games since returning from injury February 9th and currently sits third in team scoring with 51 points in 49 games.
Patrik Laine continued his torrid goal scoring pace, netting his fourth career hat trick while extending his point streak to nine games with the three-goal performance. Laine has collected 13 goals and 19 points during the streak and now has 38 goals on the season, two behind NHL goal scoring leader Alex Ovechkin. The 38 goals surpass the 36 goals he scored as a rookie last season.
Steve Mason was fantastic in his return to the Jets net, knocking aside all 31 shots he faced to pick up his first shutout as a member of the Winnipeg Jets, and his third shutout in his last five games at Madison Square Garden. It was Mason’s first NHL start since a 7-4 win over Buffalo back Jan. 5, before the netminder suffered his second concussion of the season which kept him out of the lineup for the next 73 days. Mason was in net for the Manitoba Moose during a conditioning stint this past Saturday, stopping 18 shots in a 5-4 overtime win.
Winnipeg opened the scoring late in the first period when Laine snapped a shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Henrik Lundqvist short side, giving the Jets a 1-0 lead after one.
Laine and Lundqvist would once again go head-to-head in the second period after Laine gathered up a Ben Chairot drop pass on the left wall and cruised into the slot before wiring a shot over the blocker Lundqvist for his second of the game.
The Rangers had their chances to get back in the hockey game but were unable to find the back of the net. Mats Zuccarello had two glorious chances in the game, but both were thwarted in the goal crease. The first came chance came after a great individual effort to get around Jets defenseman Joe Morrow, Zuccarello took the puck behind the Jets net and on the wrap-around slid the puck through the crease and off the far post before the puck was cleared. The second opportunity was a one-time shot at the side of the crease that was stopped by a sprawling Mason, to keep the Rangers off the board.
Laine completed the hat trick with an empty net goal to seal the win for Winnipeg, who won their 40th game of the season and improve to 40-17-9, six points behind the Central Division leading Nashville Predators.
The Jets will have Wednesday off before getting back to work Thursday night when they visit the New Jersey Devils in the third game of their season-long six-game road trip.
Bill Burfoot, Manitoba Post