Hopefully the NYFD was present at tonight’s game, since the Jackets are seriously on fire.
Even with Elvis taking a night off, the Jackets didn’t miss a beat against a team that undoubtedly stirs up some emotion within the CBJ — Artemi Panarin leads the team with 68 points (26 goals, 42 assists) and his decision to leave, while expected, it still certainly a tender subject with the Jackets. Not to mention John Davidson’s departure from CBJ’s front office, who now serves as the Rangers’ president.
The Jackets suffered a stinging 3-2 home loss to the Rangers on December 5, made especially painful by the fact that Panarin scored the GWG that night at Nationwide. Given the unprecedented bout of injuries and shuffling of lines, this last month or so has been a turbulent one for the Jackets — and is producing all the right results, setting the Jackets on a trajectory for playoff contention.
Matiss Kivlenieks hit the ice for his rookie lap in Madison Square Garden, which no matter the result of the game is cool. Of course, it’s made cooler by the fact that his first NHL game was also his first NHL win, made sweeter by all of the aforementioned reasons that it’s great news when CBJ beats NYR. Hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Not exactly a thrilling start to this one. Which is probably fine for the #CBJ and its rookie goalie. Jackets much more on their game so far than they were last night.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) January 20, 2020
It took nearly the whole period for the Rangers to score the first goal of the game: Brady Skjei scored right after exiting the box for high sticking with 1:37 left in the period. However, the Jackets were looking more composed and more dynamic to start the game than they were yesterday.
The first period ended with 11 shots on goal by the Rangers and 8 by the Jackets, with attempts at 19-14 NYR.
Kivlenieks made plenty of impressive, important saves in the first period, and the second period was no different. Despite having a few solid attempts, the Jackets are unable to score — and despite a few sloppy CBJ shifts, Matiss was able to step up and make saves, keeping the second period scoreless.
3rd Period (A.K.A. The Return of the Bjorkstrand)
Ollie’s back, baby!! After picking up a turned-over puck by the Rangers, the Maestro nails a bar-down wrister with 13:52 left in the period. The Jackets are back in the game, tied 1-1.
Circling back to the December 5 game against the Rangers, it’s hard to forget how Bjorkstrand was unsuccessful on 10 on-goal shots during that game — a classic case of highway robbery.
A high-intensity 13 minutes follow — Seth Jones and Chris Kreider scuffle, Matiss makes some more game-changing stops, and the Jackets are fighting tooth and nail to make sure they don’t leave NYC empty-handed.
If you look up the word “clutch” on www.dictionary.com, you’ll see this video of Oliver Bjorkstrand’s goal with 26 seconds left in the game playing on a loop:
BAR DOWN FOR THE WIN pic.twitter.com/MxvnkHIctW— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 20, 2020
Bjorkstrand scores another bar-down beauty with less than half a minute to go in the game. The Rangers take their timeout immediately after, but the Jackets secure the win, Bjorkstrand sticks his comeback, and Matiss Kivlenieks gets to leave the Big Apple with his first NHL win under his belt.
What a night!
I am a bleeding-heart optimist, but I still could not have foreseen the path this season was going to take. Especially after being battered with injuries, it’s hard to fathom how the Jackets are currently one of the eight teams in the NHL with 60 or more points. The degree to which the rookies are stepping up to the plate is stunning, and instead of causing distress or disorganization among the lines, it seems to just further motivate the veterans to step up and play their best games as well.
The Jackets have the next two days off, and face the Winnipeg Jets at Nationwide on Wednesday evening. They are 15-2-4 in the last 21 games and don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Here’s some final food for thought:
The Columbus Blue Jackets had their goalie walk for $70 million this summer, are paying their three goalies less than $3 million combined this season, and now have the 2nd best 5v5 save % and 3rd best save % overall— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 20, 2020