The Blue Jackets won their fifth game in a row and have points in 19 of 21 games after a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers on Sunday night in Madison Square Garden.
Game in a Paragraph
In the debut of goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, the Blue Jackets couldn't generate much offensively but also didn't really give up a ton either. The Rangers led 1-0 after a period and took that lead into the third before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it up, then the Danish winger scored his second goal of the game with 26.5 seconds to play for the winner.
Video: Blue Jackets edge Rangers on Bjorkstrand's late goal
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "We weren't bad. It was one of those games I don't think either team had a lot of energy, but we were right there throughout the game and found a way at the end."
- Kivlenieks was solid in his first NHL game, making 31 saves and pitching a shutout over the final two periods.
- Bjorkstrand scored a goal in his return and now has seven tallies in his last five games dating back before his injury. He has 14 goals this year and three two-goal games in his last five.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois assisted on Bjorkstrand's winning goal and was all over the puck throughout the game.
There wasn't much to the first period as far as chances, but the Rangers took a 1-0 advantage into the break thanks to a bit of a lucky play.
Dubois' stick broke as he attempted a pass at the end of a power play, and the puck went to Jacob Trouba, who threw a long pass attempt to Brady Skjei as he came out of the box. The pass was too strong for Skjei but went into the corner where Kivlenieks couldn't play it, and Skjei picked it up off the end boards and had time to put a shot far corner past the CBJ goalie with just 1:37 left in the period.
Kivlenieks made a couple excellent stops in the second, including one on Artemi Panarin, who was the trailer on a 3-on-2 but was denied by the Latvian goaltender's pad on his shot from the low slot. Brendan Smith and Tony DeAngelo also had looks down low but Kivlenieks was game on each of them.
Video: CBJ@NYR: Kivlenieks shuts the door on Panarin
At the other end, the Rangers played well defensively around Shesterkin and made it hard for the Blue Jackets to get to the net. But the dam finally broke 6:08 into the third, as a Rangers turnover allowed the Blue Jackets to get up the ice. Bjorkstrand happened upon a loose puck, got to the top of the left circle and roofed a shot over Shesterkin's glove that went bar down into the net.
The Maestro wasn't done, however, as he also earned the winner with 26.5 seconds to go. After a long breakout pass from Seth Jones, Dubois left Bjorkstrand a drop pass as he entered the zone, and he fired another wrister that beat Shesterkin to give Columbus the win, their 15th in the last 21 games.
1. It almost feels like there's a script writer for the Blue Jackets right now. Elvis Merzlikins getting his first shutout in Vegas? Sure, why not. Cam Atkinson with a goal and an assist in his return to lead the CBJ to a win? Of course. But this storyline against the Rangers was almost too much, with Bjorkstrand scoring twice after missing almost a month with injury and Kivlenieks getting the win in his first NHL game. The key, though, was how the Blue Jackets stuck with the game; after two periods of not generating much offensively, they finally were able to break through against the rookie Shesterkin in the third. "We talked about it before the game," Dubois said. "We've talked a lot about it this year, just staying patient. I thought we were making a lot of plays, but we weren't making that last pass to get scoring chances. We just stayed with it and Bjorky had two great shots to give us the win."
2. As for Kivlenieks, you couldn't ask for more out of the 23-year-old Latvian, who has patiently waited for a chance to get in the net while Elvis Merzlikins has gone on his tremendous run. Kivlenieks has quite a back story, moving from his home country to Minnesota at age 17 to play low-level junior hockey, then progressing through the ranks and spending the past two-and-a-half seasons at the AHL level before getting this start. He was calm and composed throughout, shaking off the lone goal he gave up and making some fantastic saves in the second period. "Honestly, I still can't believe it happened," he said of the experience. "I'll probably realize it tomorrow or something. It's always been a dream." He's just the second CBJ goalie to win his NHL debut with the team, joining Steve Mason in 2008.
3. The Blue Jackets couldn't have asked for better returns for both Bjorkstrand and Atkinson. The latter was key in each of the last two games, notching three goals and two assists, while Bjorkstrand's return was impressive. Both of his goals came on absolute snipes, shots that Shesterkin just didn't have a chance on as they went bar down each time. "I had some time and space and was able to get a shot off with some screens and found a way to get them in, so it was nice," he said. The Blue Jackets still haven't been a high-scoring team during their hot streak -- defense has been the calling card -- but getting Bjorkstrand and Atkinson back adds much-needed depth to the attack. "Both players were playing well when they were injured," Tortorella said. "It doesn't surprise me. They give us a lift with the scoring. It's something that we need."
Dubois has a 5-12-17 line in his last 19 games. ... Columbus had 31 shots on goal. ... The Blue Jackets were 0-for-1 on the power play while the Rangers did not have a power-play chance. It's the fourth time this year Columbus did not allow the other team a power play. ... The Jackets' five-game win streak ties a season high. ... Trouba's goal gave a CBJ opponent the lead for the first time since the loss to San Jose on Jan. 9. The Jackets hadn't trailed in any of their previous four straight wins. … The Jackets improved to 19-7-5 this year vs. Eastern Conference foes and 7-0-2 in the last nine vs. Metropolitan Division opponents. … Columbus is 6-1-1 in its last eight vs. the Rangers and have won four in a row in MSG.
Bjorkstrand returned to the lineup and took the place of Kevin Stenlund, who was sent to AHL Cleveland earlier Sunday. Scratches were forward Sonny Milano, defenseman Adam Clendening and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.
The Blue Jackets have one more game going into the All-Star break, hosting Winnipeg on Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena.