After limping into the All Star Break, the Blue Jackets had a chance to rest and recover, but still lacked the services of both Markus Nutivarra and David Savard, while the Rangers were coming out with a fresh roster, looking to make up some ground in the Metro and possibly leapfrog Pittsburgh for the 3rd spot in the Metro.
The Rangers came out hard, drawing their first power play less than ten seconds into the game, but had absolutely no puck luck, while the Blue Jackets got just the bounces they needed to stay alive, until Seth Jones scored on Henrik Lundqvist with Columbus’ first shot of the game, and hung on to that slim lead through the period despite Joonas Korpisalo getting peppered by several sustained pushes by the home squad.
The second period was a different story. Starting the period in 4 on 4 hockey thanks to matching penalties to Scott Harrington and Chris Kreider, Brandon Saad would score his 100th career NHL goal off a nice rush, followed by goals from Alexander Wennberg, another for Jones, and the Captain popping a beautiful goal past Antii Rantaa, who replaced Lundqvist midway through the frame.
The third period started on a similarly excellent note when Matt Calvert redirected a Zach Werenski shot in for a 6-0 lead, but three consecutive goals by Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, and Kreider slashed that to just a 3 goal lead before John Tortorella called a timeout, pulling the team in but not giving them too much of a talk, just encouraging the team - and in particular the defense - to settle things down.
The Blue Jackets weren’t able to tilt things in their favor immediately, particularly since the officials swallowed their whistles for the majority of the night, but grit their teeth and pushed forward,
The Rangers pulled their goaltender with nearly three minutes left in regulation, but there was a frustrating lack of push by Columbus, content to push the puck around to the outside and make some clear attempts, but not go for the extra point before the Rangers finally scored on a fluky shot that made its way past Korpisalo with just over a minute left to cut the lead to just two.
Fortunately, despite some truly headshaking puck decisions in that final minute, the Jackets would hang on, taking two points and making ground on the Washington Capitals, who lost tonight to the Islanders.
On to Pittsburgh. THAT should be fun...