With an unusual routine called for thanks to the New York Nicks playing a game at MSG earlier in the day, the Jackets would be asked to play the Rangers without the benefit of a morning skate.
Perhaps because of that, several unusual plays and last minute changes lead to a game where almost anything could happen, and 60 minutes would not be enough to decide the winner.
With the team taking line rushes in warmups, both James Wisniewski and Ryan Russell appeared ready to go, but each would be taken out of the lineup and replaced by Brett Lebda and Ryan Johansen. The team reported that Wisniewski was absent due to injury - perhaps having tweaked one of his nagging injuries from Saturday night's game.
With Steve Mason starting against Henrik Lundqvist in net, the Jackets would need their offense to help carry them past the Eastern Conference leaders and their all-star netminder, but spent much of the first period simply trying to cope with the Rangers' overwhelming speed and transition game. Fortunately, the Jackets received several impressive early stops from Mason, who was clearly looking to rebound from his embarrassing performance against Chicago on Saturday.
Scoreless through much of the first period, the Blueshirts would finally open the scoring when Carl Hagelin broke through the defense with speed before sending a perfect pass back to Brad Richards, who sniped a bullet past Mason.
Early in the second period the Jackets would build momentum through back to back Ranger penalties, and Columbus would convert on the second opportunity, with Antoine Vermette winning the faceoff back to Derick Brassard at the point. Brass would find a shooting lane and unloaded a shot that may have deflected off the stick of Brandon Prust before finding the back of the net.
Despite the burst of energy from tying things back up, the Jackets would find themselves on a 5 o n 3 penalty kill thanks to rough penalties to two of the team's most effective PKers - Derek Dorsett and Rick Nash.
Fighting through the kill, most clubs would have built momentum, but unfortunately the lack of familiarity with Madison Square Garden would come back to haunt Mason and the Jackets. Coming out of the crease to challenge Dan Girardi, Mason would tip the puck off his glove and against the glass on the end boards, but the rebound would pop off the active glass and into the crease, rather than into the corner as the goaltender seemed to expect. Hesitating for a moment too long as he searched for the puck, Mason would dive a moment too late to stop Artem Anisimov from depositing the puck into the net.
The Jackets would put a bit more pressure on Lundqvist and the Ranger defense, but would find themselves on the defensive as time ran down on the second period before Michael Del Zotto appeared to have added to the New York lead with .2 seconds left. With the referees heading to the timekeeper's table to check clocks, it seemed like another "Clock-gate" situation, but the majority of the Blue Jackets seemed to assume the goal would count, heading into the tunnel towards their dressing room.
Surprisingly, fans in both Ohio and New York that saw time left on the TV clock would be surprised by the referees announcing that the official NHL game clock had expired before the puck had crossed the line.
With the team given a new lease on life for the third period, the defense (particularly the heartburn inducing pairing of Brett Lebda and Grant Clitsome) would have a few "moments", but a little luck and a few key stops by Mason would have the team still within a goal as time ran down in regulation.
After a late icing call against the Rangers with just under two minutes to go, head coach Todd Richards called his timeout and brought Mason to the bench, and the extra attacker would pay off when Jeff Carter won the faceoff, handed the puck back to Rick Nash, and the much-discussed captain picked the top corner for a picture-perfect goal with just over 90 seconds left in regulation.
Securing a point at the end of regulation, the Jackets would have an opportunity to go for two, but more mistakes by both Mason and the defense at the exact wrong time gave Derek Stepan an opportunity to bury the puck into an empty net, bringing the house down for the Rangers' first win over the Jackets since 2009.
Final Score: Rangers 3 - Jackets 2 (OT)
Derick Brassard - The young center continues to step up this season, and his PP quaterbacking has been excellent since given the new responsibility by the interim HC.
- Rick Nash - Perhaps the Rangers will make a bid for the power forward, but tonight he showed why fans in Columbus have been so excited to watch him play in Union Blue over the past several years.
- John Moore - Mixed with David Savard and Fedor Tyutin at various points of the night, Moore's play continues to be a silver lining on the dark clouds.
- Faceoffs - At moments where the team needed to win draws, they won them, and both Jackets' goals started with clean faceoff wins under pressure. A key area that came up huge tonight.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
Fedor Tyutin - The former Ranger had an ugly night, having failed to properly take away the passing lanes for two of the three Ranger goals (and saved by the bell on the disallowed Del Zotto goal).
- Aaron Johnson - A partner in crime to #51 for much of the night, Johnson spent more time with his back to the play than he did actually handling the puck.
Transition - Watching the Jackets' attempts at transitions and zone play compared to New York's efforts simply highlighted how frustratingly ineffective this team can be at moving the puck around the ice.
Though Steve Mason didn't have a great night, he still kept the team in it, particularly at times where the Rangers were moving the puck around at will. It was enough to get the team into OT, even if he couldn't close the deal on the win. Call it a "C+" performance, but quite an improvement over the F- against Chicago. The worst team in the NHL came back from a bad goal and took one of the best teams in the NHL to OT. I'll take the point and just keep wondering what might have been if a few things had gone differently.
The Jackets will head back to Columbus tonight, and take on the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.