Carl Hagelin’s first career hat trick rescued a three-game road swing for the New York Rangers and threw a little more dirt on the Winnipeg Jets’ playoff chances Friday night.
“It feels good, I’ve never had one before, not even in college,” Hagelin said after the Rangers outgunned the Jets 4-2, behind some solid goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist following a pretty wide open first period.
They went into the second tied 2-2 but Hagelin’s second goal of the game with just eight seconds left was enough to win it. His final one in the third was just icing.
It was frustrating for the Jets, who outshot the Rangers 32-23 yet watched their sixth game without a win go into the books.
“The third period we came out and kind of threw everything we had at them,” said Winnipeg centre Bryan Little, whose assist on Winnipeg’s second goal kept him in the scoring lead for the Jets with an NHL career-high 54 points.
“But we couldn’t find a way. Our mistakes kind of made us pay tonight.”
“They did a good job coming at us hard, very aggressive, but at the same time we played such an aggressive style you might give up some scoring chances that are really grade-A scoring chances,” agreed Hagelin.
The Jets caught a small break when the Dallas Stars only increased their lead in the final wild-card spot in the West by one point, after losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Calgary Flames.
But the Jets are also one point behind Vancouver and four behind the Phoenix Coyotes as they try to climb into that final wild-card spot.
Hagelin’s three goals raised his total this year to an NHL career-high 16. Chris Kreider also scored for New York (36-28-4), who had lost their two previous road games in Carolina and Minnesota.
“You can’t come on a road trip and go back empty handed, those are two big points,” said Martin St. Louis, who came out of the penalty box to snatch the puck and set up New York’s go-ahead goal at the end of the second period.
“Being able to come out of the box and get one was I think big (for) the momentum of our team.”
Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd scored for the Jets (30-29-9), who haven’t won a game since Mar. 1.
“I don’t think guys in here are giving up,” said Ladd, who played his 600th NHL game Friday night.
“I don’t know. I want to think we’re trying as hard as we can to get this going in the right direction.”
The Jets also lost starting netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who didn’t answer the bell for the second period and was replaced by Al Montoya.
Coach Paul Maurice wouldn’t comment on the nature of the lower-body injury that sent him to the dressing room but said he’d say more Sunday after it’s evaluated.
The Jets also lost fourth-line forward Chris Thorburn to injury Friday night.
The Jets have tried to remain positive and not look back at their losses but Little admitted that isn’t easy.
“It’s getting harder right now,” Little said. “We’re really fighting to win and they’re not coming easy by any means. … Coming into the rink tomorrow is going to be tough because tonight was a painful one.
“I wish we could go out and redo the whole game right now.”
The Rangers were playing back-to-back after a 2-1 loss in Minnesota Thursday, but came out fast and scored on just their third shot of the game.
Hagelin deflected his first past Pavelec at 1:15. The goal had barely been announced when Byfuglien evened things up at 2:33 as he batted Blake Wheeler’s rebound past Lundqvist.
Less than a minute later, Ladd put the Jets up 2-1, when he found the upper corner of the New York net with a wrister from the faceoff circle on Lundqvist’s stick side at 3:26.
Winnipeg was cycling the puck in the Rangers’ zone until Kreider broke away and scored at 11:28 with Winnipeg defenceman Zach Bogosian on his heels.
With eight seconds left in what had been a scoreless second period, St. Louis came out of the box, fed Hagelin from behind the net and he flipped in a backhander.
“That’s a tough goal,” said Maurice. “I think clearly the 3-2 goal changed how we moved the puck and how we moved some things around.”
At the same time, he said the games the Jets are losing are a lot like the games the Jets won after he took over. The only difference now — chances aren’t turning into goals.
“It’s a frustrating run, there’s no question,” Maurice said.
The Winnipeg coach also said the Jets know they’re facing one of the toughest stretches in their schedule with games against some of the top teams in the NHL.
Hagelin put in his third at 8:50 of the third period off a pass from Brad Richards on a two-man rush that beat Montoya through the five hole.