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Jimmy Vesey’s late goal lifts Rangers past Jets for second straight win

Rangers' Brady Skjei (76), Steven Kampfer (47) and

Rangers' Brady Skjei (76), Steven Kampfer (47) and Jimmy Vesey (26) celebrate after Vesey scored during third period NHL hockey action against the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. Credit: AP / Trevor Hagan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Jimmy Vesey scored the go-ahead goal on a deflection late in the third period as the Rangers earned a 3-1 win over the Jets on Sunday.

Brady Skjei’s soaring point shot appeared to hit a Jet in front before Vesey got a piece of it with 3:53 remaining for his 11th goal. He returned after missing three games with a concussion.

“I think keeping it simple [was the key],” Skjei said. “ . . . A lot of the guys really stepped up and played a good game in a tough environment.”

Michael Grabner added an empty-netter in the final minute for his team-leading 23rd goal.

Henrik Lundqvist was superb with 37 saves and was named the game’s first star. He made several point-blank stops while helping the Rangers kill off all four of the Jets’ power plays.

“He was outstanding today,” Skjei said. “When he’s on his game like that, it’s like nothing can get by him. It’s really fun to watch and it’s nice for a defenseman to have a brick wall like that back there. He was the star of the game, no doubt about that.”

Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck stopped 25 of 27 shots.

One of the best home teams in the league, the Jets (32-15-9, 25-5-2 at Bell MTS Place) had two goals disallowed after video review. The first came 24 seconds into the game as Alain Vig neault called for a coach’s challenge for a Winnipeg offside. The second disallowed goal came with 1:22 left and the Rangers ahead 2-1 when Mark Scheifele was ruled to have contacted the puck with a high stick.

The Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers opened the scoring 1:06 into the game. After taking a setup from Scheifele, his perimeter one-timer beat Lundqvist glove side. “The first period we dominated them and then they got that goal at the end, and then we gave them an opportunity to come back,” Ehlers said. “We didn’t play the same game anymore.’’

Mats Zuccarello capitalized on a Jets turnover that created a two-on-one break and tied it with 1:06 left in the first period. Zuccarello’s shot found its way through Hellebuyck before trickling over the goal line. It was his ninth goal of the season and first in 22 games dating to Dec. 16.

“I haven’t scored in a while, so it’s always nice to get one,” he said. “At the end of the day, as long as we win, I think that’s all that matters right now. But it was good to help the team and get a goal.”

After Zuccarello’s goal, Vigneault said, “We sort of settled down a little bit and started making a couple more plays with the puck. We were more efficient.”

The Rangers’ victory was their second straight since they announced plans to rebuild the team with younger players and acquire draft picks at the trade deadline, which likely would mean trading several of their current veteran players. “I think guys are maybe even more dial ed in,” Skjei said of the team’s concentration level since the announcement. “Guys are really focused right now and really stepping up their games. It’s been really fun to watch and play in.”

Although still in last place in the Metropolitan Division, the Rangers (27-24-5, 59 points) moved within two points of Carolina for the last Eastern Conference wild-card spot. They are a point behind Columbus and the Islanders.

Notes & quotes: Vesey had three shots on goal on six attempts in 13:54 of ice time. “He played well,” Vigneault said. “He didn’t have a lot of practice time. Obviously, he’s looking for his legs and his hands there, and I thought he worked real hard today.” . . . The Rangers were 0-for-4 on the power play . . . Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad each had five shots.

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