Blueshirts Win in Winnipeg

RANGERS 2,  WINNIPEG 1

Any trip to Winnipeg could be chilly for Wintry visitors, even though Jack Frost doesn’t officially arrive until December 21st.

But the Rangers have a warm feeling today as they head to Chicago for a Friday night encounter with the Blackhawks, having emerged with a 2-1 victory last night over the hometown Jets.

While not quite a “crucial” win as triumphs go, the decision puts the Blueshirts in a position to reaffirm the excellent standard established in this season’s first month.

Minus a bevy of regulars — Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, among others — Alain Vigneault‘s deep roster prevailed with subs including Marek Hrivik and Nicklas Jensen.

In the end, two points were gained on the strength of Chris Kreider’s power-play goal 8:02 into the first period and sizzling Kevin Hayes’ winner in the final frame.

OVERVIEW: The Blueshirts gave netminder Antti Raanta another major start, this time against Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson, and once again the Fine Finn produced the W that elevated New York’s handsome record to 18-9-1. No less meaningful was the fact that the Seventh Avenue Skaters shook off Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn.

Like a rubber Spalding handball, the Rangers bounced back in a hurry. In fact, since December 22, 2015, the New Yorkers have posted a 26-4-1 record in the game following a loss (regulation or overtime/shootout). This season, the club has totaled a 9-0-1 record in games following a defeat.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

1. SCORING FIRST: Unlike the situation at Barclays Center on Tuesday, the Rangers got the opening goal which always is a confidence-builder on the road. Granted that Winnipeg tied the count but — more importantly — the Jets never went ahead.

2. CLUTCH KEVIN: Every night in every way, Hayes is delivering the goods which makes his 2016-17 persona infinitely more impressive than it was a year ago at this time. His power play game-winner elevates his goal total to 11 red lights and there’s no sign that he’ll slip into a lower gear. He’s now tied for the team lead in game-winning goals with three.

3. KEEPING PACE WITH THE BEST: Despite some erratic play in early December, the Rangers continue their neck-and-neck pace alongside the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. This stride-for-stride gallop could continue right through March and into April.

4. THE BACKUP IS AT THE FOREFRONT: Antti Raanta continues to excel on a starting goaltender’s level. He’s 6-1 so far this season, while even edging Henrik Lundqvist when it comes to save percentage.

5. UNITED THEY STAND — AND WIN: From an ecumenical viewpoint, the Rangers boasted one player from eight different countries in the lineup. Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and the USA all were represented.

6. WHIZ KIDS: Youth was well served and performed well for the victors. All of the dozen Blueshirts forwards were under 30 years old.

7. AWAY SWEET HOME: Playing on the road simply does not faze Alain Vigneault’s stickhandlers. They lead the NHL in road wins since the start of the 2013-14 season. Plus, they’ve won seven of their last 10 road games.

NEXT GAME: The Blueshirts face the Blackhawks in Chicago tonight (Friday) at 8:30 PM ET. TV is MSG+.