NEW YORK — Ryan Strome scored twice, Adam Fox added a goal and Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves as the New York Rangers posted their third straight shutout and 50th win of the season, 3-0 over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night .
Eric Comrie had 31 saves for the Jets. Winnipeg is 10 points behind the Dallas Stars in the race for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Jets have five games left.
After a scoreless first period, Strome broke through on the power play against Comrie at 15:57 of the second. The assists went to Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. Zibanejad has 50 assists and 78 points, the most of his career.
Fox scored his 11th of the season at 11:47 of the third, on assists from Panarin and former Jets forward Andrew Copp.
Panarin has points in seven of his last eight games and a career-best 70 assists. Panarin is the first Rangers player to reach that mark since Wayne Gretzky had 72 assists in 1996-97.
Strome added an empty net goal, his 19th, at 7:27 p.m. to complete the scoreboard, with assists from Chris Kriender and Copp, who has points (five goals, 10 assists) in 12 of his 14 games with New York since that was purchased. from Winnipeg on March 21.
“It’s a nice accolade, it means a lot to our team,” Strome said of the 50-win mark for the fifth time in Rangers franchise history. “We come to the track every day with a fresh mindset about the next game.”
Shesterkin was stellar from the start, posting six saves in the first, 12 in the second and 13 in the third. The shutout was his second in a row and his sixth of the season. He also shut out Detroit 4-0 on Saturday after backup Alexandar Georgiev held off Philadelphia 4-0 on April 13.
It was the first time since the 1972-73 season that the Rangers recorded three consecutive shutouts.
“I love to play and I love to win,” Shesterkin said through an interpreter. “You have to keep working.”
Shesterkin’s best save was a point-blank right-arm save on Jets captain Blake Wheeler at 5:23 p.m. of halftime. He also denied Nikolaj Ehlers with just over five minutes remaining in the third to preserve the shutout.
The 26-year-old Russian goalkeeper is 36-11-4 this season and became the first Rangers goalkeeper since Henrik Lundqvist in 2011-12 with six or more shutouts in a season. He also improved to 21-3-2 this season by making 30 or more saves in a game.
“He’s been exceptional,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Our goalkeeper has been very good, very strong. It’s great to see.”
The Rangers haven’t allowed a goal since scoring with an empty net with six seconds left in the third period of a 4-2 loss at home to Carolina last Tuesday.
The Rangers reached the 50-win mark for the first time since 2014-15, when they won a franchise-record 53 games. They also reached the plateau in 1991-92, 1993-94, and 2011-12.
Gallant became the second Rangers coach to reach the 50-win mark in his first season off the bench. Gallant and Mike Keenan are also the only coaches to win 50 games with two franchises in their first season.
Gallant won 51 games with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18, while Keenan had 52 wins for the eventual 1993-94 Stanley Cup champion Rangers and 53 for the 1984-85 Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s great. It’s been a really good year and a lot of fun,” said Gallant, who replaced David Quinn as coach after last season and has expertly guided the Rangers’ dramatic turnaround. “We just want to keep playing well.”
With the win, the Rangers moved into a tie for first with Carolina inactive with 106 points atop the Metropolitan Division. Both teams have five games left, including another meeting at Madison Square Garden next Tuesday.
“We want to finish first,” added Gallant. “We’ll take it one game at a time and see what happens.”
The Rangers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games against Winnipeg. They also beat the Jets 4-1 in Winnipeg on March 6. The contest was the Jets’ first visit to the Outfield since Oct. 3, 2019, a 6-4 victory for the Rangers in that season’s home opener.
“The scoreboard doesn’t really reflect the game we played,” Jets interim coach Dave Lowry said. “We had some good zone time and did a good job defending. I thought we played a really solid game and deserved a better fate.”
The Rangers improved to 26-8-4 at Madison Square Garden and 9-3-1 in their last 13 home games. New York has allowed just 83 goals at home, second-fewest in the league behind Carolina’s 82.
They have allowed one or fewer goals in six of their last seven games, including four shutouts. Shesterkin also shut out Pittsburgh 3-0 at home on April 7.
“It’s a credit to our goaltenders. We’re playing good hockey and the guys are embracing it,” added Strome, whose 19 goals equal a career high. “Three shutouts in a row, that’s pretty impressive.”
GRADES: The Rangers finished with a 17-11-4 record against Western Conference opponents…Rangers forward Ryan Reaves played in his 750th career game. … The Rangers were without injured forwards Kaapo Kakko and Tyler Motte. … New York also cut forwards Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier and Jonny Brodzinski, in addition to defensemen Libor Hajek and Justin Braun. … The Jets waived their starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck with an illness unrelated to Covid 19 plus forwards Mark Scheifele and Adam Brooks and defenseman Dylan Samberg. … Winnipeg last missed the playoffs in a normal season in 2016-17.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Forest ranger: Visit Islanders on Thursday.
Jets: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday to complete a six-game trip.