How long ago the opening game feels. Columbus was entering the season on a high note. The team had closed out an injury riddled season with a 15-1-1 streak. The line of Saad-Johansen-Foligno looked like it could be among the best in the league.
In the final 3:50 of the third period that night it all evaporated and the Blue Jackets have limped on ever since. After 0-8-0, the team has mostly treaded water just below the .500 mark, fans have bickered and argued, Todd Richards was fired, guys have been scratched, lineups have been jumbled with little rhyme or reason in an attempt to find something, anything that could give the team a spark.
None of it has worked. The Columbus Blue Jackets, touted as a playoff team before the team by pundits, players, and the front office alike, is sitting 28th in the NHL with 4 games to play, ahead of only Edmonton and Toronto. As fans, we’ve vented frustrations, argued until we were blue in the face, and eventually resigned ourselves to the end of yet another season of golf in April instead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
2 Stanley Cup Playoff appearances in franchise history.
There have been bright spots this season. Boone Jenner has 30 goals, an A on his sweater, and is going to be 23 entering next season. Brandon Saad has looked fine in a Blue Jackets sweater this season despite leaving a far more talented roster in Chicago. Seth Jones is a monster on the blue line and will continue to be for years to come.
And yet. All of it has been for naught. This season was over at Halloween. Which is, frankly, the most frustrating part. Just once, ONCE, I’d like this team to play well out of the gates. They don’t have to set the world on fire- just don’t get embarrassed in the month of October yet again.
Mercifully, this season is drawing to a close. 4 games remain this season, a season that has been mentally taxing for players, coaches, and fans alike. It could only end this way, though. The New York Rangers, the team that stole our thunder, the team that kicked our teeth in twice in two nights on opening weekend and broke our spirits were back in town tonight, and on Fan Appreciation Night no less. Let it never be said that the Hockey Gods don’t have a cruel sense of humor. To make matters worse, Fan Appreciation Night is only tonight because, for the final home game of the season, the barn will be half filled (or more) with Hawks fans cheering for the visitors. Huzzah.
To the game tonight. Scott Hartnell would be a healthy scratch for Columbus, and he hasn’t scored a goal in 14 games. Nick Foligno would move back to the wing, though to the 4th line, and he has scored in exactly one game in his last 30- the hat trick on February 25th. Joonas Korpisalo would start ahead of Sergei Bobrovsky, a former Vezina winner who has lost 6 of his last 8 outings. Jared Boll, buyout candidate for the summer, would make his return to the lineup from suspension in perhaps his swan song in Nationwide Arena. The kids dominated the lineup up and down (and they should, they’re the ones carrying play right now).
That’s enough reflection. Let’s get to the highlights.
FIRST PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Your CBJ starters: Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Cam Atkinson, Ryan Murray, Seth Jones, Joonas Korpisalo
Shame Sergei Bobrovsky couldn’t play. We missed out on a matchup of the highest paid netminders in the league, with Bobrovsky and Henrik Lundqvist.
Both teams looked to skate, with Korpisalo making two early saves to get his feel for the puck.
The Rangers generated 4 chances to Columbus’ 2 in the first 6 minutes, though the possession was fairly even.
Rangers goal. Chris Kreider buried a loose puck behind Korpisalo at 6:17. He gathered a loose rebound (following his own shot) and fired it between Korpisalo’s legs. Assists to Lundqvist and Derek Stepan.
Rangers power play. Jared Boll drew a roughing minor at 8:32 after standing up to Tanner Glass, who had just laid a heavy hit on Gregory Campbell.
The Rangers had firmly taken control of the game, outshooting the Jackets 10-2 at the 10 minute mark.
Save from Korpisalo at 9:45, who lost his goal stick in the process.
Seth Jones made an excellent defensive play to deny Mats Zuccarello.
The Blue Jackets killed the penalty.
Jackets power play. Derek Stepan went off for hooking at 13:00.
Korpisalo misplayed a rolling puck and nearly directed it into his own net while up a man. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015-16 Columbus Blue Jackets!!
The Rangers killed the penalty, allowing 2 shots.
Excellent offensive shift for the 4th line. Boll, Campbell, Nick Foligno, and David Savard (along with Seth Jones) spent over a minute in the Rangers zone, leading to an icing call.
At the end of the first period, the Rangers led the Blue Jackets 1-0. The Rangers outshot the Jackets 13-7.
SECOND PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
It was announced at intermission that Cody Goloubef had suffered an oblique injury in the first period and would not return to the game.
The Rangers opened the second period, searching for a second goal.
Jared Boll absolutely leveled a Ranger in open ice at 3:00.
Rangers goal. Dan Boyle makes it 2-0 at 5:28. He let a puck go from the short side, and it snuck in under Korpisalo. The goal was unassisted. That was a whale of a shot from Boyle who was at the bottom of the right circle and just let it go. Good things happen when you shoot the puck.
The puck hasn’t left the Jackets in the second period. Not great.
Korpisalo made a big save at 9:30. It’s a shooting gallery out there.
22 shots for the Rangers. 10 for Columbus. Bad.
Lundqvist denied Wennberg on the doorstep at 12:15.
Power play to Columbus. 12:24, one of the Staals went off for roughing Nick Foligno.
The Rangers killed it, allowing 3 shots.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL!! Nick Foligno deflected a David Savard shot into the net at 14:41. Assists to Savard and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Savard had trailed into the zone late and let a shot go unmarked, and Foligno was able to deflect it past Lundqvist. For Foligno, he finally hit ten goals on the season. It was also the first game Foligno had scored in since February 25 vs. the New Jersey Devils.
Brandon Saad just missed tying the game at 16:15, firing his shot just high.
Rangers goal. Mats Zuccarello makes it 3-1. After Dalton Prout lost a board battle, the Rangers had a 2 on 1, and the puck deflected off of his stick and Ryan Murray and into the net at 18:14. The goal was unassisted. Very poor play from Prout at the blue line to lose the puck.
The Rangers led 3-1 in goals and 25-18 in shots after 40 minutes.
THIRD PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Jackets power play. Rick Nash (BOOOOOOOO) went off at 3:16 for slashing Cam Atkinson.
Korpisalo makes a quick save after a bad turnover leads to a Rangers rush at 3:45.
The Rangers killed the power play.
[I missed a few minutes standing for the national anthem of the Villanova-UNC game. Go America.]
Korpisalo made a save on Derick Brassard at 10:00.
BLUE JACKETS GOAL! Nick Foligno with his second of the night. As he came into the zone, he fired a puck on Lundqvist, gathered the rebound, and hammered it home. Hell of a move to beat Kevin Klein at 9:15. Assists to Seth Jones and Jared Boll.
The Jackets pushed hard to find the equalizer late in the third period.
Per Aaron Portzline: NYR had a 22-10 shot advantage midway through the second. Shots are now 29-29 w 4:39 to play.
Jackets power play. The Rangers (Klein) took a high sticking penalty with 2:03 to play.
Rangers empty net goal. That’ll do it. Stepan scored with 1:11 to play to ice the game.
New York Rangers 4 Columbus Blue Jackets 2
*** Henrik Lundqvist
** Nick Foligno
* Mats Zuccarello
Stick taps to Gregory Campbell on his 800th NHL game played tonight.
After succumbing to the Rangers pressure early, the Jackets fought back well after giving up the early goal to Chris Kreider.
If the Blue Jackets ever figure out how to hold the puck at the blueline and not give up 2 on 1 rushes, they’ll be a decent team. Tonight was not that night.
I'm happy the captain found the back of the net. Foligno has had an awful year. At least he hit double digit goals this season. Some small and sad consolation.
Bjorkstrand with another point. Kid is offensively gifted.
3 game to go.
Columbus remains 28th in the league ahead of the April 30th lottery.
Columbus takes the ice again on Wednesday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs. Faceoff is at 7:00 EST.