The Blue Jackets played one of their best 5-on-5 games in a long time tonight, but against Henrik Lundqvist, it wasn't enough for two points.
Two nights after one of their most disappointing games of the season - a third period collapse against Montreal - the Blue Jackets started the game on time against the New York Rangers (one of the league’s hottest teams at the moment, despite back-to-back losses coming in) and played like a team ready to jump on an opponent playing its second game in as many nights.
BLUE JACKETS 1 | RANGERS 2
Lundqvist was up to the task early on, keeping the Rangers afloat despite some near-costly turnovers and misplays in their own zone. To their credit, the Blue Jackets kept coming and kept putting pucks at the net, but it wasn't until the third period when they were able to get one behind the man they call King Henrik.
And it was the second period tonight that caused problems for Columbus, yielding a pair of goals 4:11 apart that turned an evenly-matched scoreless tie into a 2-0 lead for the Rangers.
Marc Staal opened the scoring by getting his stick on a loose puck in the slot, managing to squeeze one through the pads of Sergei Bobrovsky for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 5:59 of the second period. Midway through the second period, Derek Stepan made a terrific outlet pass to spring Chris Kreider, who broke in and slid a backhander inside the post for New York’s second goal of the period.
The third period was the Jackets’ best, but it ended up being too little and too late. Scott Hartnell scored his ninth goal of the season with 3:16 gone by to get Columbus back in the game, and from that point, they emptied the tank; the Blue Jackets out-shot the Rangers 12-2 in the final frame and poured it on at times, but Lundqvist was there to answer every test. Columbus’ 5-on-5 Corsi For (CF%) was 64.9 at even strength, and there were several moments when a second goal felt imminent.
Nonetheless, it’s a fourth straight loss and the hill continues to get steeper.
“I really liked the first period, I thought there was great energy,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We pursued pucks and created a lot of turnovers. We had some great opportunities. In the second period, we got away from our game and some of it was (from) when they got scored.
“Our guys played hard, did the right things…it wasn't the result we wanted, but we did some good things.”
Though it came in a losing effort, an early third period save by Bobrovsky on Rick Nash changed the game and gave the Blue Jackets a serious jolt (in a good way). It was his finest stop of the night, point-blank on the league’s leading goal scorer and the Jackets scored a big goal seconds later, with Hartnell taking a lead pass from Ryan Johansen (who extended his points streak to 12 games, a new franchise record) and sniping high glove side on Lundqvist. The combination of big stop at one end and a timely goal at the other set up for an entertaining third period as Columbus pushed for an equalizer.
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