The Blue Jackets dropped a 3-1 final to the New York Rangers on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena.
Game in a Paragraph
Columbus overcame a bit of a slow start that featured a goal allowed in the first 30 seconds to play a dominant second period and make it a 1-1 game after 40 minutes. But the Rangers pushed for the tiebreaking goal in the third and got it moments after a Blue Jackets penalty expired, then added an empty-net goal as the CBJ lost in regulation for just the fourth time in 30 games despite a 37-28 edge in shots on goal.
Video: CBJ Recap: Bjorkstrand scores lone goal in 3-1 loss
Quote of the Game
Defenseman Scott Harrington: "It's a disappointing feeling. I think that we put in a lot of good minutes tonight. Unfortunate mix up there leading to the last penalty, but that happens. It's disappointing that we couldn't get the job done -- I guess we did, but they score right after. It's tough when you feel like you put in some good minutes and didn't get any points from it."
- Oliver Bjorkstrand netted his team-best 19th goal of the year and his 12th in the last 14 games. He has a 12-4-16 line in that span.
- Elvis Merzlikins returned to the net and was again very good, especially in the third period as the Rangers upped the pressure. He finished with 25 saves and is 8-2-1 in his last 11 starts.
It took just 22 seconds for there to be a score, and it went to the Rangers. After an offensive zone faceoff win, Jacob Trouba let loose a slap shot from the right point, and Pavel Buchnevich got a stick on it from the high slot to deflect it past Merzlikins and make it 1-0.
The CBJ goalie made an excellent stop later in the period, though, as Mika Zibanejad picked up a rebound and looked certain to score on a wraparound, but the Latvian goalie went full extension and got his left pad on the try to keep it a one-goal game.
Moments later, his opposite number made a big, similar stop, as Alexandar Georgiev used his right pad to stop Gustav Nyquist on the doorstep to keep the Rangers in the lead.
It was 1-0 after a period, but the Blue Jackets controlled the second period, posting a season period high 22 shots on goal in the period and finally tying the score after Georgiev made some good stops on Nick Foligno and Markus Nutivaara as the frame went by.
But with 1:08 to go in the period, Columbus finally got the tying goal. Harrington stepped into a shot from the left point and it was knocked down in front by Nyquist, and Bjorkstrand quickly flipped a cool backhand finish through traffic and over Georgiev to tie it 1-1.
After a quiet second period without much to do, Merzlikins came up big early in the third with a couple of big stops, including a point-blank denial of Artemi Panarin that came much to the delight of the Nationwide Arena crowd. He also made a big stop on an open Brendan Smith with 11 minutes to go and got the pad out to stop Filip Chytil on the rebound.
Columbus had its great chance to pull ahead come with about 4:30 to go and with the team shorthanded. Boone Jenner got a breakaway off a nice lead pass and deked Georgiev, but his shot rang the post and flew harmlessly into the netting.
That proved crucial as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead with 3:11 to go. New York pushed on the power play for the goal, leaving the Blue Jackets exhausted, and the game-winning tally finally came just two seconds after penalty expired as Chris Kreider was open low in the left circle and put a one-timer past Merzlikins off a nice feed by Zibanejad.
Ryan Strome then added an empty-net goal with 1:11 to go to set the final score.
1. John Tortorella talked about his disappointment in Thursday's game vs. Buffalo in the team's struggles with situational play, which is to say they made some key mistakes at key times to allow the Sabres to get back into that game. For most of this game against the Rangers, the Blue Jackets were better, but the penalty for too many men on the ice that led to the Rangers' game-winning goal was another example of a bad thing happening at a bad time. New York's goal came after the penalty expired, but the Blue Jackets were gassed having been stuck in the zone for much of the kill. "We have to understand this is the time of year where those mistakes are going to be magnified," Foligno said. "We saw it against Buffalo, we saw it again here tonight."
2. The Blue Jackets have scored exactly one goal in five of eight games since the All-Star break, and in another contest they had just a single tally before adding an empty-net goal. In all, they have 14 goals in eight games. Is it just a slump? Are injuries finally catching up to the team with such offensive-minded players Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson and Seth Jones (among others) out? Or are the Blue Jackets finding it hard to get the puck in the net as teams are ratcheting up the defense as playoffs near? That's the million dollar question right now. Tortorella didn't dislike his team's offensive play, but the result on the scoreboard wasn't there yet again. "We funneled pucks to the net, had some chances, didn't score," he said. "Other than (some) sluggish minutes in the first period, I thought we attacked and put pucks into the blue. Had opportunities to score (but) didn't." Flipping centers Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kevin Stenlund created some offensive drive, but the impact on the scoresheet remains elusive.
3. At 5-on-5 over the past eight games, the Blue Jackets have an expected goals edge of 14.65-10.48 at 5-on-5, but the team has been outscored 9-8 in that span. That means the team is at least creating chances and owning possession, so it might be a bit too early to totally panic about the offense. But when it comes to the power play, things simply put have to get better. The Blue Jackets were given a four-minute power play in the second period but did not score on four shots on goal. Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Columbus is 5-for-39 on the power play (12.8 percent). Even worse, it's gifting momentum to the other team at times with its inability to create consistent pressure, let alone goals. "It's an area we have to be a lot better at right now," Bjorkstrand acknowledged. "We need to start scoring some goals on the power play and feed off of that."
The Blue Jackets have points in 26 of 30 games (19-4-6). … The assist was the 199th of Nyquist's NHL career. … Bjorkstrand has three goals in three games against the Rangers this year. ... The Blue Jackets entered with points in 20 consecutive games vs. Eastern Conference foes (14-0-6). The run finishes tied for the fourth longest intra-conference point streak in a single season in the NHL since 1974-75. Columbus also had points in nine straight against division foes (7-0-2). … The Blue Jackets fell to 8-3-2 in the last 13 games when giving up the first goal. … Columbus had points in 16 of 17 games when tied after two periods (11-1-5). … Columbus was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill officially, making the team 26 for its last 28 on the kill. ... A sellout crowd of 18,888 was in Nationwide Arena, the 10th CBJ sellout of the year and the eighth in the last 12 home games.
The Blue Jackets inserted Jakob Lilja into the lineup in place of Liam Foudy, who was returned to play for OHL London on Friday night. Scratches were forward Cam Atkinson (injury), defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (injury).
The Blue Jackets hit the road for two games, starting the swing Sunday night at New Jersey with a 6 p.m. faceoff.