Leading 4-1 in the second period, the Blue Jackets certainly looked in control of this game.
But their speed and their zip seemed to fade as the game grew older, and boy, did it end on a heartbreaker.
The Rangers scored three times in the third period - including the game-winning goal with 16.5 seconds left in regulation - to absolutely steal one from the Blue Jackets in front of a sold-out crowd at Nationwide Arena. Defenseman Adam Clendening scored twice, as did speedy winger Michael Grabner, and both players contributed to the Rangers giving the Blue Jackets fits as the latter tried to put the game away.
The key moment was the Rangers' second goal.
First, Scott Hartnell found Lukas Sedlak streaking down the right wing, and after perfectly corralling the pass, Sedlak beat Henrik Lundqvist through the legs to put Columbus ahead 4-1 three minutes into the second period. But only 72 seconds later, Grabner answered by busting down the left side and ripping a high shot over Curtis McElhinney's glove to bring the Rangers within two.
From that point, the Rangers put the heat on the Blue Jackets, and the home team didn't have much of an answer. And it snowballed into a late dagger.
"We can't turn it over there at the end to the fastest guy on their team," said coach John Tortorella. "When some pucks went in, we got nervous (in the third period)."
Video: Torts on CBJ performance against NYR
FOURTH LINE = GOOD LINE: If there's a silver lining in an otherwise bummer of a game, the Blue Jackets' fourth line continued its offensive contribution with an energetic, tenacious performance that set the tempo early on. Sam Gagner had two gorgeous assists, but his pass to Hartnell led to a key Columbus goal 15:57 into the first period. Gagner made a strong play on the forecheck to disrupt the Rangers' breakout, then a mid-air pass to Hartnell was whacked in by the wily veteran and Columbus went into the room up 3-1 after 20 minutes. Gagner's two assists bump his season total to 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) in 37 games…not bad for a guy who was signed in August to a one-year, $650,000 deal.
Video: NYR@CBJ: Sedlak gets behind defense, scores five-hole
POWER PLAY, AGAIN: The Blue Jackets were granted three power play opportunities in the first period alone, and they needed only 10 seconds to capitalize on the first one. After a face-off play, Nick Foligno won a battle down low and Gagner found Cam Atkinson alone at the back post, and he made certain to pump it past Lundqvist for a 2-0 Columbus lead. Despite not scoring on the other two chances, the power play created plenty of looks but did not get another go after three in the first period.
ALL ABOUT THE ANSWER: Adversity is something that Tortorella has been waiting for. He knows it's going to come around, but when it arrives, the response is what intrigues him most about his team. This one stings, yes, but the Blue Jackets have another key divisional game tomorrow against the Philadelphia Flyers, and they're itching to get back at it.
"We don't have to wait long," Tortorella said.