Rather than do a lengthy game review like usual, I actually recorded Vlog above on my YouTube channel. You can Like, Comment or even Subscribe. Though I’m not exactly a expert by any stretch at this yet. 😁
I attended Sunday night’s game against the Blue Jackets. It was an opportunity for the Rangers to register their second three-game winning streak of the season. But it wasn’t to be due to the attention to detail from a focused Jackets, who rallied from a goal back to pull out a 2-1 win over the Blueshirts at Madison Square Garden.
Oliver Bjorkstrand spoiled Igor Shestyorkin’s shutout bid by beating the Rangers rookie netminder twice top cheese in a better third period by the Blue Jackets. It marked his return to coach John Tortorella’s lineup. They recently also got back top right shot Cam Atkinson.
Brady Skjei had the lone tally for the Rangers late in a bland first period where not much happened. He took the game’s only penalty and then came out and scored on a one-timer high glove. It was a Jack in the Box goal with Skjei almost getting a breakaway, but wisely using a Jacob Trouba pass off the boards to fire a one-timer past first-time starter Matiss Kivleniks at 18:23. It was the defenseman’s seventh. He’s been picking it up offensively.
But in a tight checking game where there weren’t many pointblank chances either rookie goalie had to contend with, it favored the Blue Jackets. The shots were only 8-7 Columbus in the second. Even though they weren’t able to test the 23-year old Latvian Kivleniks as much as they would’ve preferred, the Rangers misfired on a few opportunities. Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome were unable to connect in this one. Neither was Mika Zibanejad or Chris Kreider.
The closely fought game became a battle of the neutral zone in the third period. Of course, that went in favor of the more battle tested Jackets, who don’t forget made the second round a year ago. However, that was with Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and former two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Astonishingly, they haven’t missed Bobrovsky, who’s been playing better of late while trying to get the Panthers back into the postseason.
Somehow, Tortorella has taken a team that’s still marred with injuries and key departures, by getting them to buy into the team concept. Sure enough, they’re the hottest team right now. Elvis Merzlikins recently won his fourth straight decision by recording a third career shutout in four games on Saturday night in a 5-0 win over the Devils. Joonas Korpisalo remains on the shelf.
In the third, crucial mistakes by Rangers proved costly. A Jesper Fast drop to nobody along with a miscommunication with Panarin led directly to Bjorkstrand stealing the puck and beating Shestyorkin top shelf at 6:08. The unassisted tally swung the momentum.
Even though they weren’t badly outplayed in the third with shots dead even at 14 apiece, you never got the sense the Rangers were winning this game. When I go see hockey live, I usually pick up on things. As the period wore on, the puck management through the neutral zone wasn’t as good. The disciplined Jackets started to create chances off sloppy turnovers.
In the final minute, I sensed doom. I don’t know why. But I told my Dad, Justin and our friend Tommy that I thought either the Blue Jackets would come down and score or the game would go to overtime. Not long after, they made me prophetic by taking advantage of a bad change by Strome to set up Bjorkstrand for the game-winner with 26.5 seconds left.
Pierre-Luc Dubois made a nice drop for Bjorkstrand on a three-on-two rush. I originally thought it was Zach Werenski, who had an excellent game logging over 26 minutes while teaming with partner Seth Jones to shutdown the Panarin line. Werenski was in on the play, but he didn’t pick up a point.
Basically, Trouba and Skjei were left to fend for themselves with no forward support. It created a perfect screen for Bjorkstrand to fire a rocket in the high slot past Shestyorkin top shelf. He missed almost a month, but stayed hot by getting both Columbus goals in the win. Jones added a secondary assist to help set up the winning play.
As soon as Bjorkstrand had the puck on his stick in the middle of the ice, I knew what was coming. Obviously, a crushing way to lose for the Rangers. But these are the type of games they can learn from. Ditto the more thrilling 3-2 win at Nassau Coliseum over the Islanders in Thursday where Kreider scored with 24.6 seconds left.
I quickly climbed over the railing due to being in the last row of our section. Headed downstairs with my father and walked several blocks to the car. Those stairs feel like they added several flights. Ever seen Vertigo? 😉 Jesus.
It’s always harder going downstairs when you lose. We didn’t need to see the final 26.5 seconds. No way were they tying it. Not against that team. For all the teams he’s coached, this is Tortorella’s best coaching job. If the Blue Jackets make the playoffs, he should win a third Jack Adams. Nobody will want to play them either.
I don’t have much else to add. See my commentary above which includes some Islanders insight as well as why I enjoyed the Rangers’ successful return to the old barn. There’s also a preview of Islanders vs Rangers Part 3. Plus more observarions on the Blue Jackets and the game.
I’ll have something else up later.