Following two entertaining victories over the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers had their winning streak halted at two games. The Columbus Blue Jackets scored two late third period goals this evening, and won their fifth straight game with a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden. Igor Shesterkin got his third career start in the NHL and made 29 saves of the 31 shots he faced throughout the game.
Brady Skjei (7) - Jacob Trouba (16) - 18:23 1st Period
The Rangers opened the game with some strong shifts in the offensive zone, but they just couldn’t find a way through the stout defending by the Blue Jackets. After killing off the only penalty of the game, an attempted stretch pass by Jacob Trouba flew by Brady Skjei as he stepped out of the penalty box. With no one covering back on defense, Skjei was able to chase down the loose puck and sniped a shot over Matiss Kivlenieks to make it 1-0 game.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (13) - Unassisted - 6:08 3rd Period
After going nearly 28 minutes without a goal, Columbus finally tied the game early in the third period with an absolute rocket by Oliver Bjorkstrand. An ill-advised turnover by Jesper Fast created a 3-on-2 rush the other way for Columbus, and they were able to capitalize. New York was able to break up the rush, but only temporarily, as Bjorkstrand was able to collect the loose puck in the high slot. Igor Shesterkin was out at the top of his crease to challenge the shooter, but just wasn’t able to get a glove on the shot.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (14) - Pierre-Luc Dubois (20) & Seth Jones (22) - 19:33 3rd Period
Another self-inflicted defensive mistake wound up costing the Rangers the game at the 19:33 mark as Oliver Bjorkstrand picked up his second goal of the night. The Blue Jackets were able to enter the offensive zone with numbers yet again, and the Rangers simply conceded the blue line. Couple that with a horrific change on the backcheck, and it had all the makings of a disaster. Bjorkstrand was able to step into another heavy wrist shot and stunned Shesterkin as sniped the inside bar for the game winning goal.
Overall, the entire game was one huge defensive battle, and the Rangers actually played surprisingly well on the other side of the puck. Unfortunately, all it took was two defensive miscues to throw away two big points and Columbus was able to take full advantage. Following tonight’s deflating loss, the Rangers will have one final game remaining before the All-Star break and that will be on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders.