Howden Scores Late as Rangers Beat Jets 6-4 in Wild Opener

NEW YORK — Brett Howden broke a tie with 4:09 remaining, and the New York Rangers beat the Winnipeg Jets 6-4 in a wild season opener on Thursday night.

Mika Zibanejad had a goal and three assists, Jacob Trouba had a goal and two assists, and Artemi Panarin had a goal and an assist for New York. Marc Staal also scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist _ making his 14th consecutive opening-day start _ stopped 43 shots.

On the go-ahead goal, Jesper Fast fired a shot from the left point that was blocked by former Ranger Neal Pionk. The puck went Howden, who scored to give New York its fourth lead of the game.

The Jets went on their fifth power play with 1:37 left, and were skating with a 6-on-4 advantage when but Brendan Smith scored into the empty net with 17 seconds remaining to seal the Rangers’ win.

Blake Wheeler had two goals, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor also scored and Nikolaj Ehlers had three assists for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck finished with 26 saves.

Connor gave the Jets their first lead of the game, 4-3, with a power-play goal at 2:41 of the third as he tipped Josh Morissey’s shot through Lundqvist’s legs. Patrik Laine also had an assist on the goal.

Kyle Connor Winnipeg Jets
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Zibanejad, who had 30 goals last season, got a pass from Trouba, broke in on Hellebuyck and beat the goalie to tie it at 5:04.

With the Rangers on a power play carrying over from the end of the first period, Panarin _ signed to a seven-year, $81.5-million free-agent deal on July 1 _ got his first goal for New York just 27 seconds into the second. Zibanejad’s shot from the right point was stopped by Scheifele, but the puck ended up in front and Panarin fired it in to put the Rangers up 2-1.

The Jets tied it just 30 seconds later as Ehlers brought the puck up the left side on a rush, and sent it across to Wheeler, who quickly scored.

Trouba, acquired from Winnipeg in the off-season trade that involved Pionk, gave New York a 3-2 lead off a pass from Kreider at 6:03, but Wheeler tied it again just nine seconds later as he cut through defence and beat Lundqvist.

Lundqvist made two great saves on Scheifele and Laine on consecutive chances midway through the middle period, and had several nice stops on a Winnipeg power play late in the period _ including an attempt by Jake Roslovic in front.

Staal, scoreless in the final 42 games last season, got the Rangers on the scoreboard first. Off a give-and-go with Zibanejad on the left side inside the blue line, Staal went around the back of the net and stuffed the puck past Hellebuyck with 8:25 left in the first.

Marc Staal New York Rangers
Marc Staal, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Scheifele tied it for Winnipeg late in the first. Ehlers got the puck behind the net and sent an pass in front between the circles to Scheifele who fired it in off Lundqvist’s shoulder with 2:37 remaining,


Ehlers’ assist on Scheifele’s goal gave him 200 points for his career. … Scheifele now has six goals and 10 points in 12 career games against the Rangers. … Wheeler has five goals and 18 points in 30 games against the Rangers. … The teams conclude their season series Feb. 11 at Winnipeg. … The Rangers’ Kappo Kakko and Adam Fox, and the Jets’ Ville Heinola were sent out by their teams for the opening laps around the ice before pregame warmups prior to their NHL debuts. Kakko was selected by New York with the second overall pick in this year’s draft, and Heinola was taken No. 20 by Winnipeg. … Trouba played six seasons with Winnipeg and is second on the franchise list for defencemen in games played (408), goals (42), assists (137), and points (179) since the franchise moved Atlanta to Winnipeg before the 2011-12 season. … Staal played in his 841st game, breaking a tie with Vic Hadfield for sole possession of seventh place on the Rangers’ all-time list.

Up Next

Jets: At New Jersey on Friday night to continue a season-opening four-game trip.

Rangers: At Ottawa on Saturday night.


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Vin A. Cherwoo, The Associated Press