On 5th Line Appreciation Night, the Blue Jackets were hoping to exact revenge against the New York Rangers, but their slow start and inability to create offense cost them a 4-2 loss at Nationwide Arena.
The Rangers, needing a win to clinch a playoff spot, were the better team out of the gate, but the Blue Jackets caught up in the final 40, but it was too little and too late.
“I thought we found ourselves, and as the game went on, we played better. They’re a quick team,” Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said. “I don’t think we were that far away in the first period. Our biggest problem is not so much the speed of it, we’re just not generating enough offense early.”
Captain Nick Foligno led the offensive charge while ending a 15-game goalless drought tonight. He scored in the second and third periods, pulling the Blue Jackets within a goal not once but twice, the second coming with 9:15 remaining in regulation.
“You know what? I just let everything go tonight. Just played the game for what it was. I felt good. I think I needed to do that a lot earlier in the year,” Foligno said.
“It’s easy to say now, but it was a big game for us: jersey off our back night, it’s home, the last one before the last one, and just thought after the big win that we had in Carolina, it was going to be a good win for us to have here tonight, but we just didn’t get it against a good team.”
The Rangers' quick start was punctuated at 6:17 of the first period when Chris Kreider finished off his own rebound on Joonas Korpisalo to open the scoring.
In the second period, Dan Boyle added on with an unassisted goal, scoring from a sharp angle at the bottom of the circle at 5:28 of the frame, making it a 2-0 lead for the Rangers.
Foligno’s first goal came at 14:41 of the second, shortly after a Blue Jackets power play had expired. Oliver Bjorkstrand fed the puck to David Savard, who put a high shot toward Henrik Lundqvist that Foligno was able to deflect home and cut the deficit in half.
The goal marked Foligno’s 10th of the season and first since his hat trick on Feb. 25 against the New Jersey Devils.
Later in the frame, at 18:14 to be exact, Mats Zuccarello scored his 26th goal of the season, and it was a big one to put the Rangers up 3-1 with a needed insurance marker.
Foligno's impact continued late into regulation, drawing a high-sticking penalty on Zuccarello with 2:03 remaining, giving the Blue Jackets a golden opportunity on the power play to tie the game - but it just didn't happen for them tonight.
“We gave it everything,” Foligno said. “We wanted to crawl back into the game. Unfortunately, we let them get a late one in the second, but to try to get one late (at) 3-2 and anything could happen. We had the power play...it’s just unfortunate we didn’t get that bounce and it went the other way for us. It's not a good feeling, at all."