Award Winning Oscar: Rangers rookie Oscar Lindberg scored twice more in a successful home opening 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets. AP Photo by Kathy Kmonicek/Getty Images
Following a rousing introduction complete with laser lights and robot graphics (or so it seemed), the Rangers went out and took it to the Blue Jackets. In the rematch, it was a Garden party for Oscar Lindberg and Henrik Lundqvist. The Swedes were front and center in a Blueshirts 5-2 win at MSG for a successful home opener. They’re now 3-0 in ’15-16.
It was the brilliant play of 23-year old freshman Lindberg that wowed the crowd. After receiving a nice ovation during player intros that included healthy scratches Emerson Etem, Jesper Fast and Dylan McIlrath along with backup Antti Raanta, Lindberg continued his amazing start scoring the game’s first goal 80 seconds in when he rebounded home a Kevin Hayes shot. Hayes forced Jackets starter Sergei Bobrovsky into a tough save on a backhand deke which allowed Lindberg to bury the loose change.
He wasn’t done. Less than four minutes later, Lindberg buried his second of the game from J.T. Miller and Viktor Stalberg. The early chemistry the new third line trio have is undeniable. So in sync are they that it’s made Rangers coach Alain Vigneault look like a genius. He decided to move Miller down to play with Lindberg and Stalberg while promoting Kevin Hayes to the second line. So far, so good.
Already up 2-0 with the crowd still buzzing following Lindberg’s team-leading fourth in three games, Dominic Moore used some good hand eye coordination batting a Jarret Stoll rebound out of mid-air past Bobrovsky for another goal only 36 seconds later. Dating back to their three goals in 1:17 explosion Friday night, it gave them six goals on Bobrovsky in the last 8:18 spanning the 17:24 mark of the third to the 5:49 mark of the first.
It was Lundqvist’s turn to put on a show. It started with a sprawling save to deny Ryan Johansen of a open net on a Jackets power play. The Blue Jackets top sniper had what looked like a gimme with Lundqvist out of position. But he dove across somehow managing to get Johansen’s shot which went back into him. However, nobody knew where the puck was. Not even the brilliant goalie who was spectacular making 37 saves to earn the game’s number one star. Following video review, eventually he pulled the puck out of his equipment to loud cheers.
With their best player handling the Jackets shooters at one end, the Rangers continued to press the attack against a shaky defense. On a breakaway, Rick Nash was hooked from behind leading to a penalty shot. However, Bobrovsky stoned him in close keeping his team down three.
There was a scare in the first too with Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson catching Hayes with a late hit from behind. Similar to the hit that Chris Kreider delivered on Alex Wennberg, Johnson came late but from the side on Hayes who went to the locker room with Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay. Fortunately, he returned a couple of shifts later and finished the game without a problem. Hayes finished with a assist in 17 shifts (11:54 TOI),
The second period was a better one from the Jackets. Similar to Friday, they used the momentum of a power play on a dubious tripping call on Tanner Glass to control the tempo. They out-shot the Rangers 12-7 and had numerous chances to get back in it.
Lundqvist wouldn’t cooperate. Despite his defense showing a few leaks, he was on top of his game denying the Jackets at every turn. The goaltending from the 33-year old was fitting for a King. He made at least half a dozen highlight reel stops. Thus far, Lundqvist looks very focused and has turned aside 100 of 106 shots in three wins. Statement much? He referenced a Vigneault quote to The Record’s Andrew Gross afterwards.
So, what did the coach who got a nice pop from the crowd during intros think of his star pupil’s performance? Here’s what he told Seth Rothman.
With their goalie stopping the Jackets in their tracks, the Blueshirts put it away with two goals in a 2:14 span between the end of the second and start of the third. On a power play, Derick Brassard finally made an appearance scoring with 48 seconds left in period two off a nice set up from Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle. With Brandon Saad off for holding, the two defensemen worked the puck around before Boyle found a wide open Brassard in the slot. He flubbed the shot but it still went in making it 4-0. After the period, that was all for Bobrovsky who allowed four goals on 22 shots despite making some good saves. It could’ve been much worse.
At the start of the third, Stalberg and Kreider combined to set up Derek Stepan at 1:26 making it 5-0. Off a odd-man rush, Kreider fed a cutting Stepan who fired a wrist shot by Columbus backup Curtis McElhinney.
Afterwards, the Rangers took their foot off the gas petal. The Jackets were thwarted three times by Lundqvist all point blank causing familiar chants of “Hen-rik, Hen-rik!!” from the crowd. His performance was that special.
There would be no shutout due to poor coverage from Hayes and top D pair Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi failing to take Johansen in front at 4:35 cutting it to 5-1. Fedor Tyutin and Nick Foligno drew assists. If there has been a sore spot, it’s been the play of McDonagh and Girardi. Neither of which are playing well. They’re leaving too many gaps and have been turnover prone. They can be better.
Boone Jenner concluded the scoring with a power play goal with 5:52 left. He got his stick on a David Savard pass and just pushed it past Lundqvist. Despite holding a 13-7 shots edge in the third, Columbus could get no closer.
Welcome Home: The 2015-16 Rangers salute MSG during a rousing introduction. AP Photo by Kathy Kmonicek/Getty Images
Battle Of NY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-J.T. Miller, Rangers (assisted on Lindberg’s 2nd tally-4 assists in 3 games)
2nd Star-Oscar Lindberg, Rangers (2 more goals giving the rookie a team best 4)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (37 saves-has stopped 100 of 106 in 3 wins)