The Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden seeking to win their ninth straight game for the thitime in franchise history (and the second time in two seasons). Tuesday night’s clash also meant that the Blue Jackets would not face a back to back to end the season.
It was also a massive night in terms of playoff implications:
8-game winning streak moves #CBJ is right direction but post-season berth is not yet assured. Anything, including a Metro title is within reach. These games tonight will help shape the race further: PIT at NYI, DAL at WASH, FLA at OTT, PHIL at DET and NJD at SJS.— Dave Maetzold (@DMaetzMedia) March 20, 2018
In lineup news, the Blue Jackets would again be without Seth Jones, who made the trip but was not deemed well enough to play with his upper body injury. Also, Brandon Dubinsky was healthy scratched in favor of Lukas Sedlak, though Torts did not give a reason for his absence. Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the lineup between the pipes for the Blue Jackets.
Have not transcribed Torts yet, but basically the coach said he tried to let Dubinsky play his way out of funk. Couldn’t wait any longer.— Tom Reed (@treed1919) March 20, 2018
How did things go?
The Jackets opened the game with Cam Atkinson getting the first shot together. Torts elected to keep Pierre-Luc Dubois between Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand while Nick Foligno stayed up as the first line center between Artemi Panarin and Atkinson.
The television broadcast noted that Sergei Bobrovsky has been working on his puck handling, one of the few weaknesses in his game. Columbus opened the game on the front foot, with several cycles in the Rangers zone seeing Columbus notch three of the first four shots on goal. The Jackets skated hard and were nearly rewarded by Thomas Vanek could not hammer home a rebound after a long shift in the Rangers zone.
How best to sum up the early stages of the game? This right here:
Artemi Panarin forced a save from Henrik Lundqvist at the 13:30 mark, and Lundqvist looked behind him to make sure he had it, but was able to keep the game scoreless. Sergei Bobrovsky was able to make a fine save on Mats Zuccarello first, and Kevin Hayes second. New York settled in after the early onslaught from Columbus. After a big collision with Lukas Sedlak, Vladislav Namestnikov made his way gingerly back to the Rangers bench but did not go to the room. Meanwhile, something else was hurt:
Thomas Vanek won a battle below the goal line off a faceoff and fired the puck backward to a waiting Alex Wennberg. Wennberg double clutched and fired it past Lundqvist at 14:05 for his eighth of the season.
1-0 Columbus goal, Wennberg from Vanek and Murray, 14:05
we like these— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) March 20, 2018
Vanek A pic.twitter.com/9xejOH8RBp
Vanek now has 1-4-5 in his last four games. Sedlak, shortly after the goal, had an excellent shift and nearly made it a two goal lead but his effort went just wide. The Rangers pushed hard to close the period, but the Jackets were able to keep them off the scoresheet. Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak were denied in the dying seconds as the Jackets took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The second period started in an ... interesting way. The ref dropped the puck before Lundqvist even had his goal stick, but was able to make a save regardless. Sergei Bobrovsky made several nice saves in the early minutes of the period. Thomas Vanek and Zach Werenski had a 2 on 1 but were unable to capitalize just over three minutes into the second.
After some nervy early moment, Columbus settled in and appeared to regain control of the flow of play. Dubois and Sedlak both saw chances turned aside. With 10:32 to go, Artemi Panarin made it 2-0 to the Jackets. On a delayed penalty call, Ian Cole found Panarin who put it top corner.
2-0 Columbus goal, Panarin from Cole and Letestu, 9:28
At 10:07, Columbus went to the power play on a delay of game call to New York. Kevin Hayes had a golden chance shorthanded, but was unable to put it behind Bobrovsky. The Rangers killed the penalty and did not allow a shot on goal from Columbus. Immediately after, Cole took a high stick to send the Jackets back to the power play. On this power play, Hayes made the most of his shorthanded chance. The puck was picked off and was able to bury it five hole on Bobrovsky.
2-1 Rangers goal, Hayes from Fast, 13:44
The dreadful power play continued as Markus Nutivaara went off for hooking on another Rangers shorthanded rush. Two awful power plays that saw the Rangers generate three chances to zero for the Blue Jackets. The Rangers hit the crossbar early in the power play, but the Jackets were able to kill the opportunity. Hayes hit the post late for the Rangers after some unncessarily cute offensive play by Vanek allowed a Rangers chance but, mercifully, the Jackets were able to make it to intermission with a 2-1 lead.
#CBJ maintain a 2-1 lead after two. Rangers found ability to get attempts off their sticks…Jackets lucky they still aren’t coming from high danger areas.— Alison (@AlisonL) March 21, 2018
In the 2nd period, Jackets at 5v5 with:
43.33% of shot attempts
53.33% of scoring chances
83.33% hi-danger attempts pic.twitter.com/fjcOyw6B1P
The third period opened with Jesper Fast nearly scoring from the doorstep but Bobrovsky turned him aside. The Rangers controlled the first three minutes of the period, dominating play and winning puck battle after puck battle. On a rush up ice, Panarin waited and found a trailing Markus Nutivaara who buried it behind Lundqvist.
3-1 Columbus goal, Nutivaara from Panarin and Foligno, 4:05
Bobrovsky was able to deny Kevin Hayes shortly after the Nutivaara goal. The Rangers earned another power play at 6:32 as Artemi Panarin went off for hooking. The Rangers were able to capitalize as Zibanejad drew the Rangers back within one goal at 7:18.
3-2 Rangers goal, Zibanejad from Pionk and Buchnevich, 7:18
The Rangers regained control of the flow of the game after the goal — special teams were a total hinderance to the cause on this night. Neither the penalty kill nor the power play covered themselves in glory. On a broken play, Lundqvist lost his stick and lost sight of the puck as he thought he had it covered. Panarin circled the net and buried it for his second of the night.
4-2 Columbus goal, Panarin from Atkinson and Murray, 11:19
Boone Jenner went off at 13:36 for holding in kind of a make up call for a Vanek hook in the middle of the ice. The Rangers hit the post before a MASSIVE collision. Matt Calvert chased down a loose puck in the Rangers zone and got tied up and took the legs out from underneath Henrik Lundqvist. Completely unintentional play as Calvert was falling down but it looked bad. Lundqvist was able to stay in the game. The Jackets were able to kill the penalty.
never wanna see anyone hurt. Hopefully everyone is ok. pic.twitter.com/b6rYXwD8GO— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) March 21, 2018
Thomas Vanek took a tripping penalty with a lazy stick at the 16:54 mark, giving the Rangers a 6 on 4 advantage as they pulled Lundqvist in an attempt to tie the game. Cam Atkinson hit the post of the empty net early in the power play. The Jackets were suffered again on the kill as Chris Kreider made the Jackets pay. The puck was deflected just past Bobrovsky at 18:08.
4-3 Rangers goal, Kreider from Skjei and Sproul, 18:08
The Rangers returned Lundqvist to the net, and were unable to get him out as the Jackets buzzed all around the net. Panarin just tipped a shot wide looking for his hat trick. With 30 seconds to go, Bobrovsky was able to cover a fluttering shot that could have caught him by surprise. After two clutch faceoff wins in the defensive zone, Artemi Panarin was able to get his hat trick in the dying seconds.
5-3 Columbus goal, Panarin from Cole, 19:58
Columbus Blue Jackets 5 New York Rangers 3
Artemi Panarin has carried the offense for long stretches of the season, and tonight he was rewarded with his first Columbus hat trick as he hit 25 goals for the season. He is the most talented forward this team has ever had, and deserves to get paid whatever he asks for. Panarin had 16 points in his first 25 games in Columbus. In the 49 games since then, he has 52.
The nine game winning streak is the second longest in franchise history, bested only by the 16 game streak from last season.
#CBJ beat @NYRangers 5-3 for their ninth win in a row. That ties for the second-longest winning streak in franchise history. Jackets pull even in Metro standings with @penguins, who lose to @NYIslanders. Both have 87 points. @NHLFlyers, with 85 points, trail by 2 goals in 3rd— Steve Gorten (@sgorten) March 21, 2018
The special teams were terrible tonight, surrendering two power play goals and a shorthanded goal to the Rangers. But for a few posts and a crossbar, this game could have gone much differently. Look for the coaching staff to focus hard on cleaning that up going forward. The win was nice, but it was in doubt until late because of breakdowns on special teams. The Jackets cannot afford that going forward.
That being said, a win is a win. They found a way to get four points out of their final back to back and are heading into a monsterous game on Thursday with all of the confidence in the world.