Captain Andrew Ladd thinks momentum can carry the Winnipeg Jets into the playoffs.
Ladd scored into an empty net on Thursday as Winnipeg downed the New York Rangers 3-1.
The Jets have earned nine out of a possible 10 points in their last five games, going 4-0-1 in that span.
“We’ve got to feed on what we’ve done the last couple games and the success we’ve had and the good feelings that come from that,” said Ladd. “When things are happening and things are going well, you get a sense of your game. You know what to do, you realize why you’re doing things and it makes it easier to make those decisions.”
Nik Antropov scored the game’s first goal and Antti Miettinen had his first of the season for Winnipeg (14-11-2). Ladd added some insurance with his empty-net goal with 39 seconds left to play. Dustin Byfuglien had a pair of assists for the Jets.
It was Ladd’s 14th goal of the season. Antropov is on a four-game point streak with two goals and four assists.
Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves to pick up his 11th win of the season.
The teams were tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference heading into the game, but New York has a game in hand.
“It was a tough game to play,” said Pavelec, who stopped Marian Gaborik on a penalty shot. “They have some big guys in the lineup and I think we handled it pretty well. In that third period, I think we played really well.”
Ryan Callahan was the lone scorer for the Rangers (13-11-2), while Hendrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots as he was pulled from the net with about a minute and a half left in the game for an extra attacker.
New York got a free chance to score when Gaborik got to take a penalty shot after Byfuglien hooked him at 11:17 of the first period. His attempt to stuff the puck under Pavelec’s pad was unsuccessful.
It was one of the missed opportunities New York head coach John Tortorella pointed out.
“We’ve got to capitalize,” said Tortorella. “When you have a penalty shot, you have a breakaway, some really good looks there, you need to get something done there.
“Hopefully, we can get our next game, some guys gain some confidence and we score some goals along with defending the proper way.”
The Rangers have lost three of their last four games.
New York paid for a penalty early in the first period after defenceman Michael Del Zotto went to the box for cross-checking at 1:46.
Twelve seconds later, Jets centre Kyle Wellwood passed the puck across the ice just inside the blue-line to Byfuglien, who fired at the net and watched Antropov flip the puck past Lundqvist with a backhand shot.
Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel pointed out that the goal came on a power play, an area the team had been struggling in all season. The Jets got their first power-play goal in eight games in Tuesday’s win over Toronto.
“Write this down — we scored a power-play goal in every game the last two games and we’ve won, so we won the special-teams game there,” Noel said.
“Make sure to make a note of that because you’ve been grilling us forever.”
Contributions from a lot of players was the difference in the game, Noel said, noting players were blocking shots to keep the puck out and battling for possession.
Callahan tied the game at 1:11 of the second period as he stood in front of the net and redirected a shot by Derek Stepan.
The teams kept the tempo high in the second and the Jets went ahead 2-1 on Miettinen’s first goal of the season in only his seventh game.
Byfuglien sent a wrist shot from the point at Lundqvist, who was being screened by Miettinen. The puck deflected off the right winger into the net at 14:52.
Shots on goal were even 22-22 after the second intermission.
Both goalies made some good saves in the third, with Lundqvist making two big saves in the final three minutes.
After Lundqvist left the ice, the Rangers turned the puck over in Winnipeg’s end.
Olli Jokinen passed it up in the neutral zone to Blake Wheeler, who moved it ahead to Ladd for the empty-netter.
Notes — Winnipeg heads out on the road for games against Toronto Saturday and Ottawa on Sunday. The Rangers finish their four-game road trip on Saturday in Pittsburgh.