Not every win is going to be a Picasso or Renoir. That’s precisely how to describe a wild 5-4 Rangers’ shootout win over the Blue Jackets at a loud Nationwide Arena. Twenty-four hours after losing in tough fashion to the Red Wings, they found a way to get two points against a good Columbus team.
Even after Chris Kreider put the Rangers up 3-1, which followed up a Pavel Buchnevich goal from Jimmy Vesey, it was far from over. Not by a long shot. They got careless. On a good shift down low against the Kevin Hayes unit, Pierre-Luc Dubois was able to tip in a wide Seth Jones point shot for his seventh to cut the deficit to one.
Thirty-two seconds later, a turnover from the top line inside the Columbus zone led directly to Nick Foligno finishing off a Boone Jenner feed in front to tie the game. There was nothing Alexandar Georgiev could do on either goal. He played a lot better than the four goals he gave up, finishing with 34 saves. That included some timely ones when his team fell behind and in the third period, after a huge Vesey goal off a gorgeous Hayes set up tied it before the conclusion of the second.
Before a crazy period that saw the Metropolitan Division rivals combine for five goals on 21 shots, it was the Rangers who had played a good road period in the first. They got the game’s first goal on a great Buchnevich pass for a Mika Zibanejad tap in past Columbus backup Joonas Korpisalo at 5:54. The play was made possible by Vladislav Namestnikov, who absorbed a heavy hit from David Savard to move the puck to Buchnevich for a two-on-one. Buchnevich basically did the rest with a terrific toe drag to go around a sliding Blue Jacket defenseman and get the pass across for an easy Zibanejad goal. His seventh of the season coming from Buchnevich and Namestnikov, whose play has gotten markedly better since coach David Quinn benched him.
A similar theme is developing with Buchnevich, who’s come back a much improved player. The 23-year old Russian isn’t just relying on his talent. He’s competimg much harder and playing more determined to earn his place on the first line. He had one of his best games, recording his fifth goal and the primary assist on Zibanejad’s tally. Since returning to the lineup, he has two goals and two helpers with seven shots in four games. He’s more consistent five-on-five and continuing to be aggressive, which is exactly what Quinn wants.
In the match up of backups, things started okay. The Rangers got the quick start they wanted on Zibanejad’s goal. Quinn went mostly with the Hayes line against the dangerous threesome of Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson. The tandem of Marc Staal and Neal Pionk saw some time against them along with Brady Skjei and the emerging Tony DeAngelo, who had a very good night.
Rookie Lias Andersson, who moved up to play with Hayes and Kreider, got nabbed for a phantom tripping minor late in the first. The penalty kill couldn’t pick the kid up. Instead, they got pinned in by a good Columbus power play that worked the puck around. Jesper Fast failed to clear the zone. That eventually led to Dubois finding the seam with a perfect pass in front to Atkinson for a tap in with Staal unable to stop him. That tied the score with 34 seconds left.
Things really opened up in the second. The teams traded chances off the rush in transition. A mistake by Atkinson resulted in the Rangers’ second goal. After two good defensive plays by DeAngelo, Atkinson tried a back pass that didn’t work. That allowed Vesey and Buchnevich to come two-on-one in the opposite direction. Vesey made a great pass across to Buchnevich, who one-timed the puck past Korpisalo for a 2-1 lead at 6:57.
Less than two minutes later, DeAngelo made a good play to Hayes, who skated down low before sending a great pass across to an open Kreider for his team-leading eighth for a 3-1 lead at 8:30. Before they could relax, Columbus came alive and struck for two consecutive goals in a 32-second span.
On the first, Panarin fed an open Jones at the right point for a shot that Dubois deflected home at 11:49 to make it a one goal contest. Hayes was too late to stop Dubois, who was in the right place at the right time. The second was a turnover by the Zibanejad line to Markus Nutivaara, who started a Columbus transition to Jenner. Jenner made a good pass in front for Foligno, who flipped a forehand past Georgiev to tie it up.
Quinn had seen enough, calling a timeout. Out of it, the Rangers allowed a shorthanded goal to Alex Wennberg. Pionk made a brutal read. He waited too long with Kreider open. By the time he passed the puck, Jones had intercepted it and broke in with Wennberg for a two-on-one. He led Wennberg in and the center beat Georgiev with a good wrist shot to give the Blue Jackets their first lead with 3:57 remaining.
But following the Columbus penalty kill, Kevin Shattenkirk kept a play alive by passing for Hayes. He then flew down low and centered for a Vesey finish in front for his sixth to tie the score at four with 53 seconds left. It was a huge goal that allowed the Rangers to get a point.
They didn’t have much left in the tank. The third was mostly Blue Jackets. They outshot the Blueshirts 11-2. There were two sustained shifts where they could’ve scored. On one, Georgiev made three straight saves including padding away two rebounds due to good positioning. That sequence is the one that stood out. He bailed the team out in the clutch.
A DeAngelo clean hit on Riley Nash resulted in Nash taking exception after he was knocked down behind the Rangers net. He went back at DeAngelo knocking him down. DeAngelo didn’t take kindly to it, opting to challenge Nash to a fight. Nash accepted. It was an entertaining scrap. DeAngelo landed early and Nash came back late. Both went to the box for five minutes. That meant the Rangers lost their best defenseman for five minutes because that’s how well DeAngelo played.
Fredrik Claesson and Shattenkirk had a couple of key defensive shifts before DeAngelo returned. That included one against the Panarin line. Claesson was solid in his return after missing nine games. He logged over 17 minutes with a big block and a plus-one. Better than Brendan Smith, who was a healthy scratch.
If there was a sore spot, Filip Chytil didn’t play enough yet again. He was fine in his shifts with Cody McLeod and Ryan Spooner on a mismatched fourth line. Both Chytil and McLeod played slightly over eight minutes while Spooner got an extra four for whatever reason. He even took a shift in overtime. Partially due to Buchnevich suffering a hand injury late in regulation. Hopefully, that’s not serious. As for Chytil, he needs to play more. If Mats Zuccarello returns Monday against Vancouver, would the organization consider sending him to Hartford for regular ice-time?
In the three-on-three overtime, the Blue Jackets were far more dangerous. Especially Panarin and Atkinson, who Georgiev robbed when his team trailed by one prior to the Vesey goal. He also denied Panarin twice in OT with him just getting a piece of a backhand deke, which I thought was in. That’s how well Georgie played.
The shootout went five rounds. In the first round, Atkinson (forehand deke) and Zibanejad (forehand top shelf) exchanged goals. The second round was just as fun with Georgiev closing up the five-hole on Panarin, followed by Shattenkirk, who went forehand stick side. But Dubois extended it with a good forehand short side top. Spooner, Anthony Duclair, Hayes and Oliver Bjorkstrand all failed. In the bottom half of the fifth, Vesey was able to sneak a high shot off Korpisalo’s glove and in for the winner, causing a tantrum. That was amusing.
The Rangers improved to 8-7-2 with 18 points. Four of the wins have come via the shootout where they’re four-on-four. They have only four wins in regulation and overtime (ROW). It doesn’t matter. They’re finding ways to win games. They’re actually sitting third in the wildcard. Some teams that have higher expectations would trade places right now.
Three Rangers Stars 🌟
3rd 🌟 Kevin Hayes 2 primary assists on the Kreider and Vesey goals, 10-and-6 on face offs, +1 in 21:10 including 2:42 power play and 1:28 shorthanded
2nd 🌟 Pavel Buchnevich goal (5th), primary assist on Zibanejad goal, 2 shots and Even Rating in 15:41
1st 🌟 Jimmy Vesey tying goal at 19:07 of second (6th), assist on Buchnevich goal, +2 in 18:28 with the shootout winner