WINNIPEG -- In an ideal world, the Rangers could erase the tape of the first half of Wednesday night's game against the Jets: Five consecutive penalties, plenty of turnovers and two goals allowed in 56 seconds to a team that had little to gain.
But the second half was a keeper.
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The last 30 or 35 minutes of their 4-2 win over the Jets, was, in the words of John Tortorella, "the best we've played in a while . . . I thought it was one of the strongest second halves we've had."
Ryan Callahan provided the spark. He had a goal and assist as the Rangers erased a 2-0 deficit. Callahan is two goals shy of his first 30-goal season. Michael Del Zotto also had a goal and assist.
Trailing 2-0, Del Zotto netted a shorthanded goal at 7:44 of the second on an assist by Callahan that revived the Blueshirts, who have won three straight and five of six and are 49-21-7 (105 points), five points clear of the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers have five games to play, the Penguins six.
"All the penalties we took we just couldn't get our game going," Tortorella said. "Making it 2-1, instead of them maybe making it 3-0, was the key moment of the game."
With Brandon Dubinsky in the box for slashing, Del Zotto crashed the net and jammed in Callahan's rebound to cut the lead to 2-1.
It was the team's eighth shorthanded goal and the first since Brandon Prust scored against the Capitals on Feb. 12.
"We could have easily caved in there, especially in a back-to-back [after playing Minnesota the previous night] and especially after killing those penalties," Callahan said. "I think it shows that if we keep working at it, we're never out of a game."
The brilliant play of Calla- han, who was tremendous in all three zones, cannot be overlooked. He led a five-on-three penalty kill for 1:53 in the first, blocked shots and passes, and scored the tying goal on a power play, one of two man-advantage goals, late in the second period. Callahan corraled Marian Gaborik's rebound in front, spun to his forehand and beat Ondrej Pavelec at 18:23 to tie it at 2.
Henrik Lundqvist, starting his seventh consecutive game, made 22 saves. "We come in here late last night, there's a lot of things you can have as an excuse, but guys stepped up," he said. "That goal [Del Zotto's] meant a lot to us. We felt, 'All right, let's go.' ''
Brian Boyle outmuscled Bryan Little in the corner, powered to the net and backhanded a puck over the right pad of Pavelec at 3:07 for his third goal in four games and provided the Rangers their first lead of the night.
"I think all of them came from a total of four and a half feet," Boyle said. "I've had no luck scoring from far out, that's for sure."
And credit Derek Stepan, who scored the fourth goal at 10:06 of the third, for reviving the sluggish power play, ranked near the bottom of the league.
"Using Step on the point, and the puck movement, helped us tonight," Tortorella said. "I think Step brought a different level of patience."
In all, three of the goals came via special teams, and Callahan said, "It would be great in the playoffs to have success there. It gives us something to build on."