Akin to his 41 save performance in a 4-1 win against the Rangers in Winnipeg back on October 14th, Connor Hellebuyck upped the ante and racked up a season-high 50 stops on 51 shots en route to another 4-1 Jets victory over the Blueshirts, clinching a season series sweep.
Skating on the finishing end of a back-back, Hellebuyck shrugged off the 4-2 defeat in New Jersey on Sunday and owned Broadway on Monday, snapping New York’s 10-game point streak in the process, which puts them four points behind the Devils for second place in the Metropolitan Division. In the other net, the mysterious struggles for Igor Shesterkin continued.
The reigning-Vezina winner surrendered at least three goals for the sixth straight start and then failed to own up to it by refusing to speak to reporters postgame.
THE NOT-SO-SPECIAL TEAMS:
Energized by their home crowd following their week in Western Canada, the Rangers skated circles around the Jets before a K’Andre Miller delay of game penalty for flipping the puck out of play halted any momentum they had mustered for good.
Off the ensuing draw, a Josh Morrissey rifle from the point was tipped in by Pierre-Luc Dubois, giving Winnipeg the game’s first strike. Later in the period, New York would earn themselves a man advantage of their own, but a Dylan DeMelo goalmouth block on Vincent Trocheck was as close as they got to tying it.
Moments after the penalty expired, a three-on-two odd-man rush resulted in a Kyle Connor shot that was juggled by Shesterkin, leaving a rebound for Mark Scheifele, whose tap-in doubled the Jets lead, which ultimately was more than enough for Hellebuyck. The Rangers generated an additional three power plays, yet nothing came to fruition, even after the coaching staff switched Vladimir Tarasenko onto the top unit, shifting to the left side while Mika Zibanejad manned the bumper.
Kyle Connor’s tally at the 6:04 mark of the second period, where he pounced on a Filip Chytil turnover and wristed one past Shesterkin, extending Winnipeg’s lead to 3-0 on a shot the netminder has stopped dozens of times. Contrary to last season, where his patience, anticipation, and athleticism ascended him to league stardom, he’s mainly looked complacent by staying deep in his net and is overcommitted to one side when he does leave his crease.
Yet, as far as head coach Gerard Gallant is concerned, Shesterkin “Played fine” and “Didn’t see any issues with the goals he gave up” while lamenting the recent slide, which includes four consecutive starts with a save% under .900, to the fact he’s seen fewer attempts and fewer games this year due to the teams improved defensive front and stable play provided by backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who up until Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary against the Flames, was riding a sporadic seven-game winning streak.
Barring an injury, though, this is rightfully Igor’s crease as despite not playing up to his lofty standards, he’s still ranked seventh in the NHL with a +15.6 Goals Saved Above Expected, and as he showed last Spring, only needs one big night to snap out of spirals and form back into the dominant goaltender he’s known to be.
Of the 51 pucks the Rangers sent toward Winnipeg’s net, 30 came from the slot area.
The lone biscuit that beat Hellebuyck came courtesy of Trocheck, who banged home Tarasenko’s seam pass at the eleven-minute mark of the second stanza, breathing life into the Garden crowd. Alas, try as they might the rest of the way, not even the porous Jets defense could stop this from being their goaltenders night. The magnitude led to the Rangers passing up open lanes in exchange for tape-tape passes, despite their fans’ endless pleas to “Shoot.”
Nevertheless, it was Hellebuyck show. When Scheifele beat Shesterkin top-shelf for his second of the evening at 15:29 of the third period, thus restoring the visitors’ three-goal cushion, the hosts were left with no choice but to salute the opposing netminder’s 50-burger and move on.
“Throughout the year, there are games where even though you don’t get the two points, you feel good about the way you played and the fight you put up,” Barclay Goodrow said. “Just chalk this up to not one of our nights.”