Cam Talbot skates back to the net after the Winnipeg...

Cam Talbot skates back to the net after the Winnipeg Jets scored an empty net goal in the third period at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 2, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

For the sixth time this season, it's back to .500 again for the Rangers.

The Winnipeg Jets took advantage of some brutal defensive lapses in the second and third periods Monday night, with former Ranger Olli Jokinen scoring twice in the third and Blake Wheeler adding an empty-netter for a 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden.

"We needed a better effort than we got in the third," said captain Ryan Callahan, who dove into a scrum at 15:50 of the second to poke a loose puck past Ondrej Pavelec (35 saves) to bring the Rangers (14-14) back from a 2-1 deficit.

"They were able to capitalize on some turnovers or capitalize on times when we didn't have our guys back," Ryan McDonagh said. "Credit them. They made us pay and at some point, we have to learn our lesson."

With nine more home games this month, the Rangers, just 5-6 at the Garden, better learn quickly.

It was backup goaltender Cam Talbot's first loss after six straight wins, when he allowed two goals or fewer in each.

Talbot, 26, who is 6-2 since being called up to replace the retired Martin Biron, had little chance on Jokinen's first goal and could get only a piece of his second.

Four goals isn't going to cut it," Talbot said. I can't expect the guys to go out there and score five goals for me. I've got to do a better job of eliminating their opportunities and clearing them . . . so we've got to do a better job of closing these games out."

Coach Alain Vigneault, who chose Talbot over Henrik Lundqvist to start consecutive games for the first time in his brief NHL career, was forgiving.

"He didn't make the same amount of saves as he has in the past," Vigneault said, "but we certainly made his life challenging the way we played."

After what Vigneault called "a pretty solid first period," which ended with the Rangers ahead 1-0 on Mats Zuccarello's fourth goal, a deflection of McDonagh's point shot at 2:49, "we just stopped playing in the first 10 minutes [of the second period]," Vigneault said. "We gave them opportunities, odd-man rushes and turned the puck over, and from there they had some life."

In the second, Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba hit posts and Devin Setoguchi fired the puck through Talbot at 8:16 after Jokinen spun away from Michael Del Zotto near the right corner, and fed Setoguchi for the 1-1 tie.

The second goal caused Vigneault to demote Derick Brassard to the fourth line. Brassard's needless pass in the offensive zone was grabbed by Byfuglien, who headmanned the puck to John Albert. The center broke in alone and beat Talbot, who made 25 saves.

"Good teams don't hover around .500 all season," said Rick Nash, who, like Callahan, had seven shots. "They put winning streaks together and we can't find that streak right now. We obviously need a better home record than we've put forward. It's close, but not good enough."

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