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Three late goals lift Rangers past Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets were on their way to a dream start to the season after Brandon Saad scored in his debut with less than four minutes left.

But the New York Rangers answered with three goals in 1:17 and defeated the Blue Jackets 4-2 at Nationwide Arena.

Oscar Lindberg tied it with 2:36 remaining, and Kevin Hayes slipped one past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the right wall 17 seconds later for a 3-2 New York lead.

Mats Zuccarello, who scored the Rangers' first goal, got his second with 1:19 left.

"Obviously we're not going to get that every game," Zuccarello said. "We got some lucky breaks. We managed to stick with it.

"That's a good team we're playing. They're coming out hard. They play heavy. Maybe that [caught] them at the end. They were running around a little bit."

The veteran Rangers (2-0-0) have the most road wins and road points the past two seasons; they opened this one with a 3-2 win at the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.

"Our guys are competitors," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "Even though they were down, it's about finding ways to win and they did that."

The teams play Saturday at Madison Square Garden in the Rangers' home opener.

"We played 57-1/2 minutes of hockey," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Mistakes are going to happen. They're a good hockey team. They're going to generate more opportunities. There's a lot of things I liked in this game, a lot of things. We had a 2-1 lead but we couldn't manage it."

Columbus fed off the energy of the crowd and played a physical game from the start. But Zuccarello gave New York a 1-0 lead with 44 seconds remaining in the first period when he stole the puck from Columbus center Gregory Campbell and beat Bobrovsky with a backhand after being hit in the corner prior to making the play.

Zuccarello was playing his first meaningful game after sustaining a brain contusion and fractured skull in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I got smoked a couple of times there," Zuccarello said. "I got lucky and got the puck back. I closed my eyes and shot. I say that every time, but it's true."

Columbus forward Cam Atkinson tied the game 10:59 into the second.

New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped the first 16 shots but was beaten on a backhand-forehand move by Atkinson. The assist went to former New York forward Brandon Dubinsky, who swiped the puck from falling former Columbus forward Derick Brassard and stretched a pass across two lines to spring Atkinson.

Saad put the Blue Jackets ahead 2-1 with 3:50 left in the third period after Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh was called for delay of game. Saad, who was acquired June 30 in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, took a pass from defenseman Ryan Murray and made a great first impression.

"That felt good taking the lead, but at the same time it's a game of emotions and the puck went the other way," Saad said. "The fans were passionate. They were loud. The building was rocking. That's what you expect the first night."

But the Rangers soon quieted the arena.

"I liked the way we responded when they made it 2-1 on the power-play goal," Vigneault said. "Obviously they got a break when [McDonagh] put it over the glass."

Lundqvist made 31 saves; Bobrovsky made 21.

"It's early in the season so I'm not going to read too much into it," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "It's hard to swallow a loss but there were a lot of good things we did tonight."

The Blue Jackets, who led the NHL last season with 508 man-games lost to injury, lost center Alexander Wennberg in the first period when he sustained a concussion after being checked by Rangers left wing Chris Kreider.

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