It was another tough loss for the Rangers on MSG ice.
After rebounding from a 3-1 deficit in the third period, the Rangers were unable to beat Sergei Bobrovsky in the shootout and fell 4-3 to their new divisional rivals.
The first period started out quite well for the Rangers. They were dominating possession for the majority of the period, and ended up with 16 shots overall. Derick Brassard had several good chances in the period (although his utter lack of shooting ability prevented him from scoring on any of them) and Chris Kreider was absolutely flying. Despite the dominance in shots, the Rangers ended up surrendering the first goal to former Ranger Brandon Dubinsky, on a nice deflection in front off a James Wisniewski wrist shot from the point. The chance was generated by a big hit that Dubinsky landed on Girardi in the corner, and then JT Miller turning the puck over at the blueline led to the shot from Wisniewski. It wouldn’t take the Rangers a long time to respond, though, as Mark Letestu was called for tripping, and the player who drew the penalty ended up scoring the tying goal on the ensuing power play. Rick Nash got his first ever goal against his former team to make it 1-1 headed into the second. It was a perfect wrist shot from the top of the left circle, with Kreider providing the perfect screen in front. The period would end in a 1-1 tie.
The second period started off with some good chances around the net for Columbus, but the Rangers really ended up in big trouble when Chris Kreider was assessed a questionable major and game misconduct after knocking Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin into the boards. Dubinsky came to his teammate’s defense, dropping the gloves and engaging Kreider. The refs broke it up, though, and Dubinsky was given a two minute penalty. The Jackets scoring almost immediately on the ensuing 4 on 4, as Cam Atkinson blew by Anton Stralman after blocking his point shot and potted one five hole on Lundqvist. The Rangers managed to generate some good scoring chances throughout the period after Akinson gave the Jackets the lead, but they were unable to capitalize on a now healthy Sergei Bobrovsky. Towards the end of the period, the Jackets were able to increase their lead on a goal by James Wisniewski. The play was a result of Brassard losing an offensive zone draw and missing his assignment on the backcheck, and Stralman being unable to keep the puck in the offensive zone at the blueline. Dubinsky picked up the puck in the neutral zone and made a great pass to an open Wisniewski on the right wing side, who then wired a wrister over Lundqvist’s blocker. The period would end 3-1 Blue Jackets.
The Rangers’ start to the third period was much better than their second period start. They were able to put pressure on the Jackets early, and Brian Boyle would capitalize on a loose puck in front for his second goal in as many games. Not long after that, the Rangers would get their fifth powerplay of the game after Ryan Callahan forced David Savard into a delay of game penalty. Once again, Rick Nash would end up scoring on the PP on a perfect screen (this time from Callahan) as the Rangers fought back to tie the Blue Jackets. Columbus would take over the game from that point on, however, as they outshot the Rangers in the third period 13-11 and got some very good chances up until the last few minutes of the period. Regulation ended with the score knotted at three.
OT wasn’t particularly eventful. James Wisniewski got a great chance early on that Lundqvist had to be very sharp on. OT wouldn’t escalate until Derek Stepan was called for interference with 1:10 remaining. It was a questionable call, as Stepan and Wisniewski collided slightly, and Wisniewski went down like he had been shot, quite frankly. It was an embarrassing dive. Either way, though, the Rangers would have to kill off the penalty, and they did a marvelous job of doing so to get the game to a shootout.
Zuccarello would start the shootout. He tried is newly patented “slow to a crawl then try and roof it glove side” move, but Bobrovsky had none of that, and made the save look easy. Mark Letestu would start it off for the Jackets, and he scored on a quick shot to the low glove side. Rick Nash was given a chance to tie it, but Bobrovsky robbed him as he went forehand-to-backhand, trying to use his massive reach go beat the Columbus goaltender, but to no avail. Ryan Johsansen would shoot second for the Jackets with a chance to win it, and he did just that, beating Lundqvist on a marvelous move, making four/five dekes and beating him upstairs on the backhander.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Rangers after battling hard to tie it. Overall, I’d say they were the superior team tonight, but the defense still had some wacky moments, and there were FAR too many odd man rushes for the Blue Jackets. The Rangers next game is on Wednesday, against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks at MSG, which will be a big measuring stick game as to how far away this team is from making an impact in the postseason. Personally, I don’t expect much, as I don’t think this is a very good team, but the games are played for a reason. Hopefully the Rangers can pull out a win and gain some traction in the standings. Until then, LGR.