WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Rangers’ longest remaining road trip of the season got off to a rousing start Sunday night when they beat the struggling Winnipeg Jets, 4-1, at Canada Life Centre.
Chris Kreider scored his 37th and 38th goals and his center, Mika Zibanejad, had a goal and an assist. Former Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba, making his second return to Winnipeg since being traded to the Rangers, contributed two assists.
But more impactful than any of them was goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who had another stellar performance as he continues to make a case for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.
The Rangers were outshot 46-22, but Shesterkin made 45 saves. He did most of the heavy lifting in the first two periods, keeping the Rangers in the game until they got a couple of goals in the third to pull away.
"I like it,’’ Shesterkin said of the heavy workload. "But today I’m tired, a little bit.’’
Shesterkin is 28-6-3 with a league-leading save percentage of .942 and a league-best 1.93 goals-against average. His teammates are running out of ways to sing his praises.
"I think you could go back eight or nine years and take some of the quotes that I had about Hank [Henrik Lundqvist] and apply them to the way Shesty’s playing right now,’’ Kreider said. "We are truly spoiled. The guy’s unbelievable. He’s been our best player all year. At this point, nothing really surprises me. He’s just otherworldly . . . I don’t think there are any superlatives left for him.’’
The Rangers (36-15-5) earned their third straight victory and pulled into a tie for second place in the Metropolitan Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams have 77 points, but the Rangers have one game in hand and have two more wins than Pittsburgh. Carolina leads the division with 83 points.
Kreider’s two goals pulled him into a tie with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for second-most in the league, one behind Toronto’s Auston Matthews.
His first came on the power play as he deflected in a shot/ pass by Artemi Panarin to make it 2-0 at 17:28 of the first period.
His second came at 6:21 of the third period on a pretty play in which the speedy Kreider collected a pass banked off the left boards by Zibanejad, then cut across the slot against Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck and flipped a backhander into the net.
"That’s something me and Mika have looked for I think the entire time we’ve played together,’’ Kreider said of the play on the second goal. "And it’s not always there. But when it is, he serves it up perfectly. It’s something Laf [Alexis Lafreniere] has started to look for too. Even our defensemen, if there’s an opportunity. Worst-case scenario, hopefully I can get on the puck first, at least, and we can get set up in the ‘O’ zone. But it’s just a good way for us to kind of stretch out the ‘D’. And occasionally it works out.’’
That made the score 3-1, and Zibanejad made it 4-1 when he tipped Trouba’s shot from the right point past Hellebuyck at 9:32 for his 22nd goal.
Barclay Goodrow’s 12th goal, a tap-in of a pass from Trouba, gave the Rangers the lead at 2:01 of the first period. Kreider’s first goal made it 2-0 going into intermission, but the Jets got on the board with a power-play goal by Nikolai Ehlers at 13:34 of the second period. The Jets had a total of six power plays in the game.