With some top veterans sitting out Marshawn Lynch Jersey , the youngsters took center stage for the playoff-bound Winnipeg Jets.
Sami Niku scored in his first NHL game and Kyle Connor got his 30th goal of the season in overtime and the Jets downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Add to that Patrik Laine’s 44th of the season to move only two behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
”Any goal you score in this league is great, but overtime, and the way we stuck with it the whole game, it’s awesome,” said 21-year-old Connor. ”This group is so good.
”We all push each other every day.”
Nikolaj Ehlers, with his 29th, and Jack Roslovic also scored for the Jets, who reached 50 wins and moved within three points of first place overall and Central Division rival Nashville with two games remaining for both clubs. The Jets finish the regular season with home games Thursday against Calgary and Saturday against Chicago.
Winnipeg, which ended a four-game road trip, had already established a club record for wins in a season. The Jets have won nine of their past 10 games.
Alex Galchenyuk forced overtime with a power-play goal at 18:18 of the third period. Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron and Kerby Rychel also scored for Montreal in its last home game of the season.
”I liked the way we kept working hard and got back in the game,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said.
The lineups had a preseason look as the Jets rested Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Adam Lowry, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey with what were called minor injuries. And Montreal has regularly been using several minor league call-ups of late.
”We’re so deep, you can see Malcolm Smith Jersey ,” Connor said.
The Jets were all over Montreal early and got the lead at 12:25 on a power play when Laine wired a goal to the top corner with an off-wing shot. Ehlers finished a 3-on-1 by knocking in Paul Stastny’s pass at 14:19.
Roslovic one-timed Tucker Poolman’s pass along the ice from the left faceoff dot to score at 15:58, but Montreal got it back at 19:00 when Lehkonen picked up a loose puck in the slot and beat Steve Mason.
Byron reached the 20-goal mark for a second straight season as he banged in Brendan Gallagher’s rebound 3:19 into the third period and Rychel tied it 3-3 with a deflection after a faceoff in the Winnipeg zone at 10:15.
Only 24 seconds later, Niku scored on a wrist shot through traffic from the slot.
”The puck was coming and I shot and I think it was lucky,” Niku said. ”I think it hit one of their players.
”It was really nice to play my first game at the Bell Centre. Montreal is such a big hockey town.”
Montreal was on a power play and had Carey Price pulled for an extra attacker when Galchenyuk’s shot from the right circle was juggled by Mason and dropped into the net with 1:42 left in regulation.
Connor one-timed Roslovic’s pass for the game-winner three minutes into overtime.
It was the 557th game for Price, who passed Jacques Plante for the Canadiens record for games played by a goaltender. A video tribute was played at 6:13 of the first period with messages from goaltending greats Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy and an emotionally moved Price got a long ovation. Plante has the team record for wins with 314.
”Nobody enjoys losing, it wasn’t a lot of fun this year, but it’s nice knowing that we have the support,” said Price, who stayed out the longest as the players signed autographs for fans after the game.
”Obviously it’s tough when things aren’t going good, but there’s no better place when things are going well and that’s just a taste of it.”
Jets: Host Flames on Thursday.
Canadiens: Travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Thursday.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in eight years, the New York Rangers are going all in on a makeover.
Several star players were jettisoned at the trade deadline for youngsters and draft picks, there’s tough decisions to be made with free agents, and they’re seeking a new coach to lead the way.
”We all know there’s going to be some changes during the summer,” veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.
”Part of me is a little excited about what’s ahead. I hope we take some good steps in the right direction. … Whoever is going to be here, we are going to compete and be sure to have a better year.”
After a slow start to the season, the Rangers picked up their play but injuries to key players such as Chris Kreider Will Hernandez Jersey , Kevin Shattenkirk, Kevin Hayes, Marc Staal and Mika Zibanejad hampered their ability to gain some consistency.
Then, the retooling became a certainty in early February when general manager Jeff Gorton announced the team’s moves at the trade deadline would be with an eye to the future and not to save the season.
Weeks later, Michael Grabner was dealt to New Jersey, Rick Nash to Boston, and J.T. Miller and captain Ryan McDonagh to Tampa Bay – with all going to teams that are in the playoffs.
The Rangers closed the season losing eight of their final 10 and finished last in the Metropolitan Division – 20 points behind the Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets, for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.
”It’s been a tough season for everyone – fans, players, the whole team organization,” said Mats Zuccarello, whose first year in the NHL was right after the Rangers last missed the playoffs in 2010.
”I’ve never been in this situation before. It’s been a tough season mentally, lost a lot of good friends, but at the end of the day right now it’s over.”
The lost season and resulting pivot to a youth movement cost coach Alain Vigneault his job when he was fired hours after a season-ending 5-0 loss at Philadelphia last Saturday night. The Rangers went 226-147-37 in five years under Vigneault, with a run to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season in 2013-14.
”We understand we didn’t get the job done,” Lundqvist said. ”When that happens Derrick Nnadi Jersey , changes are going to happen. We had players leave, now coaches leave. We hoped and we expected more at the start of the season. Things happened along the way. … We were just not able to recover and changes were made and it was a tough stretch after that.”
Gorton said he expects to interview five to 10 candidates for the head coach vacancy, and will consider anyone with coaching experience at any level.
”We’re looking for somebody with a progressive mind, that’s thinking the game, that’s watching the game and seeing what’s going to happen next,” he said. ”Just a good person, a good leader, somebody we can work with and develop young players.”
Some other things to know as the Rangers head into the offseason:
The moves at the trade deadline gave the team a chance to look at some younger players.
Ryan Spooner, acquired from Boston in the deal for Nash, made the biggest impact with four goals and 12 assists in 20 games – nearly matching his production with the Bruins (nine goals, 16 assists).
Teenage first-round picks Lias Andersson (one goal, one assist in seven games) and Filip Chytil (one goal, two assists in nine) were also given chances to play down the stretch and could make the team out of training camp in the fall.
The Rangers could choose to hasten their rebuild with some moves in free agency, but that option may be hampered due to tough decisions to make with some of their own players.
Spooner is among the team’s eight restricted free agents, along with Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes Trey Flowers Jersey , Brady Skjei, Vladislav Namestnikov, Rob O’Gara, John Gilmour and Ryan Sproul. Also, Paul Carey, Cody McLeod, David Desharnais and backup goalie Ondrej Pavelec are unrestricted free agents and will not likely be re-signed.
WATCH THE DRAFT BOARD
The Rangers have stockpiled draft picks this year with seven selections in the first three rounds, including three first-rounders. This will make it two straight years with multiple picks in the first round after four straight years without any.
Unless they win the draft lottery, The Rangers aren’t going to get Rasmus Dahlin. However, other strong defensemen that could be available include Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson.
NEED TO HEAL UP
In addition to the injuries that cost players time during the season, Zuccarello and Lundqvist both said they have been dealing with knee injuries throughout the season.
Zuccarello said he just had some work done on his knee and will rest up for three to four weeks. Lundqvist plans to address his issue with doctors in the coming days so he can ”do all the right things to be 100 percent when I start training and preparation for next season.”
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