A few weeks ago, it appeared to be iron-clad that the New York Rangers would be unchallenged in the Metropolitan Division’s second position. Such is the case no longer.
The Rangers have hit a bit of a lull late in the regular season, in the midst of losing six of their last 10 games and now in third position behind the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins had a three-point lead on the Rangers entering Sunday’s schedule of games, having won nine of 10 clinching a playoff spot for the 10th season in a row.
Meanwhile, the Rangers still have some work to do.
They’re on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth of their own but it’s eluded them of late. They slipped up twice in the past week, losing in regulation to both Carolina and Buffalo (the latter on home ice) with their next opportunity coming Monday night in Columbus.
Coming off a 5-1 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets would like to exact some revenge over the Rangers, the team that swept them in back-to-back games to begin the regular season.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers last met on trade deadline day at Madison Square Garden, and it was one that the visitors felt got away from them.
For most of 60 minutes, the Blue Jackets played a solid team game and frustrated the Rangers. After Mats Zuccarello opened the scoring in the first period, Cam Atkinson scored a beautiful breakaway goal in the third period to even things up at 1-1, but a mistake late in the third period proved to be the difference.
Columbus got wires crossed while on the power play and it allowed Derek Stepan to break free and score a shorthanded go-ahead goal with 2:48 to play, sending the Rangers to a 2-1 victory.
The Rangers have won all three meetings with the Blue Jackets this season (3-0-0).
As the trade deadline approach, there was plenty of conversation in the hockey world about what the Rangers would do with defenseman Keith Yandle.
He was a big acquisition for New York a year ago, coming over in a big deal with Arizona that sent top prospect Anthony Duclair to the Coyotes. Yandle, a pending unrestricted free agent, did not move at the deadline and remained with the Rangers – and it was clearly the right move.
The 29-year-old Boston native is enjoying one of his best offensive seasons, racking up 45 points in 78 games and giving the Rangers a playmaking presence on the blue line.