Sometimes, you don’t have it. For some reason, the Rangers didn’t in losing to the bottom feeder Blue Jackets 5-3 at Columbus last night.
The loss certainly was disappointing. They let an early two-goal lead turn into a two-goal deficit before a third period rally fell short. It was well deserved. They got lazy and were burned by a more scrappy Blue Jackets, who responded to a 6-0 humiliation to Calgary by finding a way to win the final meeting of three versus the Blueshirts.
“You know what, your players aren’t going to be ready every night to play their best game,” Gerard Gallant said. “And tonight I think there was three guys that I was really happy with and the rest of guys were below what they usually are. That was the biggest thing for me.”
His team also had to play the final half without top star defenseman Adam Fox. The rating Norris winner who leads all defensenen in scoring, left the game in the second period after absorbing some leg on leg contact along the boards. When asked what Fox’s status was, Gallant termed him “day-to-day.”
If that’s the case, he might not play in tonight’s big home game against the Wild. A special night that will see Henrik Lundqvist take his place among Rangers greats with his number 30 being retired. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6:30 PM on MSG Network with the game not expected to start until 8. It’ll certainly be special with Mats Zuccarello in town to see his close friend honored. Cam Talbot also could be the starter for Minnesota.
As exciting as that storyline is, that wasn’t what happened Thursday in Columbus. Facing an opponent they’ve handled, perhaps the Rangers thought it would be easy after former Blue Jacket Artemi Panarin and Barclay Goodrow scored to put them up two before the game was five minutes old.
“Two-goal lead there, it’s something you don’t want to give up, especially that quickly or that easily,” Jacob Trouba said following the game. “Got away from [our game] a bit and then showed some fight in the third period. Just came up short.”
With Gallant predictably going with backup Alex Georgiev to face Joonas Korpisalo, he was saving heir apparent Igor Shesterkin for Friday night against the better opponent. Despite the quick start, the Blueshirts made mistakes that wound up behind Georgiev, who showed frustration after giving up the tying goal to Boone Jenner. It wasn’t exactly a very mature way to handle a goal against.
The game had started out well. On their first shot, Panarin took a Fox pass and fooled Korpisalo by missing his shot. It worked out well giving him number 12 at 1:29. He did what he usually does versus his ex-team. Panarin recorded a goal and two assists to stay hot. It wasn’t enough due to the malaise they had in between.
Rookie Braden Schneider continues to impress. The 2020 first round pick recorded his first multi-point game by assisting on a pair of goals. Playing with a poise beyond his 20 years, he took a Panarin feed and made a smart shot pass for a Goodrow deflection that made it 2-0 at 4:44. It gave Goodrow a new career high with nine goals. He’s really played well in Year One since coming over from Tampa.
But just when it appeared they would cruise to an easy win over a cupcake, the Jackets woke up. You know their pride was at stake. They allowed a ridiculous 62 shots to Calgary the previous night. Persistence finally paid off. After Jenner moved the puck up for Patrik Laine, he went around Ryan Lindgren and got the puck over for a driving Gustav Nyquist, who redirected the puck in off his skate. The play was reviewed. But it clearly wasn’t a kick. He beat Greg McKegg to the net. Where Fox was I don’t know. It was a bad sequence.
Unfortunately, that was enough to give the momentum back to the Blue Jackets. Following a Goodrow penalty for tripping, Oliver Bjorkstrand got the puck over for Zach Werenski at the left point. He fired a wrist shot that Jenner was able to redirect by Georgiev, who threw up his arms in disgust.
This wasn’t the time for such negative body language. It’s clear that the backup is a moody player who isn’t always a team guy. How can one explain his nonchalant hand shake with Shesterkin following wins? Maybe Tony DeAngelo was right about him. He’s a strange cat. I can’t wait to get a different backup that’s more of a team player.
Despite leading in shots 8-5, the Rangers found themselves tied after the first period. Things didn’t get better in the second. Buoyed by the strong finish to the first, Columbus outplayed a flat Rangers, who looked like they didn’t want to be bothered. They outscored them 2-0 and held an 11-8 edge in shots.
Former Bruin Sean Kuraly put the Blue Jackets ahead with his seventh from Max Domi and Werenski at 6:18. Beaten on the play were Trouba and K’Andre Miller. At the time, Gallant had Alexis Lafreniere out with Morgan Barron and Ryan Reaves. All night, he was mixing and matching. Lafreniere eventually replaced Julien Gauthier on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Fox had an uncharacteristic turnover that lead to Columbus doubling up the margin. He threw the puck right to Laine, who quickly got it over for a Jenner shot from a tough angle that caught Georgiev leaning. It was another bad sequence where the team and goalie looked disjointed. Brutal.
Just like that, they trailed a game they once led by two entering the third. Four straight goals by an inferior opponent. You can say it happens. They took the Jackets lightly. But who played the night before? Not the Rangers. I hope they at least had fun on the town. What exactly would that consist of in Ohio? One only wonders.
Trailing 4-2, it took a pair of ridiculous minor penalties from Jake Bean to at least help the Rangers make us think another third period comeback was possible. The first minor put them on their first power play. That it took until the 45:55 mark of the game kind of drives home the point.
Skating without Fox, Trouba replaced him on the first power play unit. He’s more of a shooter than passer. After they didn’t cash in on the first half, out came Schneider. He joined Panarin and Zibanejad. Sure enough, Schneider moved the puck to Panarin at the right circle. Then Panarin made a perfect pass for a great Zibanejad one-timer upstairs on a helpless Korpisalo. It was his 16th goal and ninth power play goal. That cut it to 4-3 with still 12:48 left.
There was plenty of time for them to pull this out. With Columbus doing nothing but sitting back, the Blueshirts piled up the shots. One that didn’t register was a Trouba bomb on a second consecutive power play thanks to another mindless Bean penalty.
With Bean off for interference, Trouba got the puck at the right point and fired a rocket that beat Korpisalo short side top. Unfortunately, the puck rang off the goalpost. That close. He didn’t have his best game, but attempted nine shots. Five reached the net including one that Korpisalo gloved with Kreider standing to the side. He needed to be more in front. It wasn’t his best night.
The other great chance they had was when Lafreniere took a pass from Miller and had a cutting Gauthier for the potential tying goal. He made a great feed for Gauthier, whose shot was denied by the quick glove of Korpisalo. He made a bundle of big saves in the lopsided third. Shots were 20-3 Rangers. It didn’t matter.
It wasn’t happening. After a Columbus icing, Gallant lifted Georgiev for the extra attacker with 2:30 left. It backfired. It took all of 16 seconds for Werenski to outlet for an easy Kuraly empty netter from straightaway at 17:46.
As if to tease us further, Nyquist tripped up Kevin Rooney with 1:41 remaining. This time, it was a six-on-four. It didn’t matter. The aggressive Jackets pressured up top and took shots at the empty net. Nothing got done except for time winding down for a Columbus victory.
This is one they won’t like. They’ll have a chance to erase it from the memory bank on Friday night. Considering the big occasion, it would be more disappointing if they don’t. The Wild are good. Much better than the Jackets. Word to the wise. The Rangers better be ready to play. Shesterkin or no Shesterkin.
Battle Of Hudson Three 🌟 🤩 ⭐️
3rd 🌟 Artemi Panarin, NYR goal plus 2 🍎, 4 SOG in 21:38
2nd 🌟 Boone Jenner, CBJ 2 goals plus 🍎, +3 in 21:25
1st 🌟 Joonas Korpisalo, CBJ 33 saves on 36 shots including 19 of 20 in 3rd