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Callahan, Del Zotto help Rangers beat fading Jets

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The Canadian Press
3/29/2012 12:15:39 AM
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WINNIPEG -- Tanner Glass knows Winnipeg Jets hopes for a playoff spot are hanging by a thread, and costly losses at the normally energizing MTS centre are making their slim chances fade even faster.

The Jets lost 4-2 to the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers Wednesday, keeping Winnipeg (35-34-8) in 10th place in the conference with 78 points.

Buffalo holds the eighth and final playoff spot with 86 points, while Washington is ninth with 84. Both clubs were idle Wednesday.

"It's difficult, for sure," Glass said. "You play all year to get towards the playoffs and when you kind of squander some chances at home here, that we feel were games we needed to win to get in, it's difficult.

"But I don't know if we're out of it yet, but we can't play like we are."

Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto each had a goal and an assist for the Rangers. Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan also scored, while Marian Gaborik added a pair of assists.

Three of those goals were on specials teams, two on the power play and one short handed.

Spencer Machacek and Bryan Little had Winnipeg's goals.

Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves for the Rangers, while Ondrej Pavelec stopped 24 shots in the loss.

The Jets aren't yet mathematically out of the playoff picture, but they will need to basically run the table and watch their rivals collapse.

The Jets, Sabres and Capitals have each played 77 games. Tampa and Carolina are behind Winnipeg with 77 points each.

The Jets have five games remaining, all against conference opponents. They head out for a four-game road trip, starting in Carolina on Friday, and close out the regular season at home April 7 against Tampa.

Winnipeg's road performance has been its weak link. It only has 12 wins away from the friendly confines of MTS Centre.

But the sold-out crowds of 15,004 didn't help the Jets this week, as they also lost to Ottawa on Monday. The previous home game was a loss to Carolina, giving the Jets their first three-game losing streak at home this season.

"We definitely haven't been playing our best lately," said Little, whose goal was his 23rd of the season.

He pointed to another case of the Jets' inability to play with a lead and finish teams off.

Winnipeg had all three power plays in a scoreless first period, including a two-man advantage for 1:44, and outshot the Rangers 11-4.

They jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second period after Machacek fired a shot between Lundqvist's pads at 3:58 and Little redirected a pass 56 seconds.

But the Rangers quickly responded with a short-handed and a power-play goal.

With New York centre Brandon Dubinsky in the box for slashing, Callahan took the puck behind the back of the net, spun around and sent a pass to Del Zotto in the slot, whose low shot went under Pavelec at 7:44.

"I think the turning point in the game really was the short-handed goal that we gave up because they (the Rangers) didn't have a lot of life," Jets head coach Claude Noel said.

"I think they got a lot of life after that, made it 2-1."

New York had defeated Minnesota 3-2 on Tuesday.

Callahan agreed with Noel's take on the short-handed marker.

"I think our penalty-kill goal kind of lifted the team up and gave us momentum, and we began to take the game over," the Rangers captain said.

While Jets forward Alex Burmistrov was off for holding, Callahan scored his 28th goal of the season during a power play at 18:23 of the second.

Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd was assessed a double minor for high-sticking 29 seconds later.

Just after Ladd's penalty expired, Boyle notched the game-winner when he tucked the puck between the goal post and Pavelec's stick at 3:07 to make it 3-2.

Stepan widened the gap 4-2 with a power-play goal at 10:06.

Boyle, who had the cap knocked off a tooth by Ladd's high stick, pointed to his team's character for the comeback.

"Especially early in the game, there's a lot of game left to be played and we knew we had more," Boyle said.

"I think it was a matter of righting the ship and figuring out what we needed to do better and then take it from there, and we did that."

New York was 2-5 with the man advantage and Winnipeg 0-5.

The Rangers have won all four games between the clubs this season, including two shutouts.

New York, which hosts Montreal on Friday, is the only Eastern Conference team the Jets haven't defeated this season.

Rangers celebrate (Photo: Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)
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