Hockey, we hear so often, comes down to luck. Bad bounces and broken sticks and seeing-eye shots dictate the outcomes more than sheer will or skill. On no night was that concept made more clear than Thursday, when the Columbus Blue Jackets dominated the New York Rangers and yet came out on the short end of a 3-2 loss.
Oh, and Artemi Panarin scored the game-winner in his first game back at Nationwide Arena since leaving in free agency last summer.
These are our 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets. On Thursday, the CBJ:
- outshot New York, 47-19. That’s a season-high.
- outshot New York 18-2 in the third period.
- generated 84 shot attempts to 39.
- owned a 15-4 edge in high-danger scoring chances.
- posted a 4.88 xGF compared to New York’s 1.39.
- enjoyed a 62.92 CF% at 5v5 (including 79.31% in the third period).
- received a franchise-record-tying 10 shots from Oliver Bjorkstrand.
...and they lost. After going up in the first on a Cam Atkinson goal, the Rangers tied the game with eight seconds left in the period and scored twice in the second. After Seth Jones cut the lead in half early in the third, the Rangers held on for dear life until time ran out. And that was it.
Alexandar Georgiev played wonderfully, to be sure, killing all five Columbus power plays. But on a night that was supposed to be about Artemi Panarin’s return to Nationwide, the Blue Jackets directing a nonstop barrage of pucks on net while staring at the big screen wondering “How did that not go in?!” stole the narrative.
Along with Bjorkstrand’s 10 shots, Josh Anderson and Seth Jones posted seven shots on goal. Pierre-Luc Dubois added six. Emil Bemstrom played well and led CBJ forwards in 5v5 ice time (15:37). Andrew Peeke also made his NHL debut, playing 11:37 and showing some skill. Dean Kukan picked up an assist to score a point in back-to-back games. Joonas Korpisalo (or Sergei Bobrovsky, depending on who you ask) stopped 16 shots.
In the end, as has been written on this site too often this season, the Blue Jackets lost. They couldn’t score more than the other team—despite a quadrillion shots and five power plays—and went home feeling sad. Sometimes it feels like it’s not your night, and other nights it feels like it should be but the Hockey Gods are off playing Candy Crush or something. Tonight was the latter.
You knew, given the Panarin and John Davidson-fueled emotions running high, to expect an action-packed first period. Both sides obliged. Columbus nearly scored early, as Sonny Milano threw a perfect backhand pass across the zone to a waiting Bemstrom all alone in front, but his shot just missed the net.
Milano would help out again at the 14:39 mark by drawing a tripping penalty from Boo Nieves. A solid (but goalless) power play ensued, and Bjorkstrand will be seeing this shot (among others) when he goes to sleep tonight.
Hard to get a better look than this. Great save from Georgiev. pic.twitter.com/7iJTOesxXv— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) December 6, 2019
Artemi Panarin received his tribute video at the first media timeout, to mostly applause and a standing ovation.
Bemstrom’s near-misses continued with a shot off the post on the rush. If CBJ fans wanted to be happy, then sad again, they had to wait only a few more minutes for the John Davidson video at the next timeout.
Columbus, as is their wont, scored the game’s first goal. Brady Skjei broke his stick at the blue line and Atkinson pounced with Nick Foligno on the rush. Happy to see Cam get on the board and the Blue Jackets led 1-0 less than eight minutes into the game.
1-0 Blue Jackets, Atkinson (9) from Foligno (9) at 12:43
Columbus went back on the power play soon after by way of a Brendan Lemieux roughing call soon after. The power play—and Milano—looked good, but again could not capitalize on the advantage.
Lemieux would exact revenge in the dying seconds of the first. Mika Zibanejad recovered a puck behind the CBJ and, against the boards, sent a between-the-legs pass to Lemieux in front. Whether Seth Jones (covering Zibanejad), Dean Kukan (late to Lemieux) or Nick Foligno (whiffed on the puck that went back to Zibanejad) was to blame, Lemieux potted a one-timer from the crease to tie the game.
1-1, Lemieux (5) from Zibanejad (10) and Kakko (6) at 19:52
The Blue Jackets’ 18 shots in the period tied a season record.
Yet again in the second, the Blue Jackets controlled the puck and the majority of chances, but the other team put theirs in the net.
One of Columbus’s best chances of the night went directly into Georgiev’s glove early in the frame. Josh Anderson grabbed a New York turnover and circled into the high slot, flush with time and space...and his shot found the left hand of the Rangers’ netminder. Anderson went back to the bench and watched the replay in disbelief.
Bemstrom headed to the penalty box for high-sticking at 4:23 to give the Rangers their first power play. The visitors threatened and Korpisalo made an incredible stop on a Panarin one-timer from the circle, but Jacob Trouba converted from the blue line later in the advantage.
2-1 Rangers, Trouba (4) from Fox (10) and Strome (18) at 5:46
Panarin got a second chance later in the period...and didn’t miss this time. With a little less than five minutes left in the frame, the Rangers recovered a wide shot and whipped it around the zone, eventually working it to Panarin. The former Blue Jacket loosed a snap shot from Korpisalo’s right and the goaltender never had a chance.
3-1 Rangers, Panarin (13) from DeAngelo (13) and Howden (5) at 15:32
Vladislav Gavrikov rang one off the post before the Blue Jackets received an abbreviated power play 18 seconds before the break. Nothing doing before the horn, and the Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the final intermission.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Blue Jackets posted eight 5v5 scoring chances in the second to the Rangers’ three.
No shots for the Blue Jackets on the remainder of the power play to start the third. Seth Jones took matters into his own hands a few minutes later, spinning Pavel Buchnevich into the Earth’s crust and scoring by himself. Beautiful play from Future Norris Trophy Winner Seth Jones.
3-2 Rangers, Jones (4) unassisted at 3:33
New York challenged for goaltender interference. They didn’t win the challenge, and gave the Blue Jackets a power play.
Columbus looked extremely strong on the power play—creating a screaming chance in front of an open net for Bjorkstrand—but came away empty.
The rest of the third, with little exaggeration, followed the same pattern of Blue Jackets coming extremely close to scoring and eventually not scoring. Anderson hacking away at a series of chances right in front of Georgiev. Bemstrom missing over the net (while Pierre Luc-Dubois knee dropped Skjei in the corner).
Finally, the CBJ received a golden chance with 2:10 left in regulation. Skjei tripped Gustav Nyquist, setting up a practically game-ending power play for the Blue Jackets.
After Georgiev stoned the CBJ, John Tortorella called a timeout to allow his side to regroup. Soon after, Bjorkstrand let loose...and hit the crossbar with 17 seconds left. Nothing else after that, and that’s game.
Columbus hits the road for a four-game road swing, beginning Saturday night at Florida.