Recap: Blue Jackets Snap Rangers Impressive Win Streak

Recap: Blue Jackets Snap Rangers Impressive Win Streak
Feb 25, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; New York Rangers goalie Jonathan Quick (32) makes a save against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Something about the Columbus Blue Jackets always seems to give the Rangers trouble and sure enough, that’s what we saw tonight. The Rangers had the chance to make history but the division rivals were going to do everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Fresh off the front of a back-to-back with travel, the Rangers ran out of gas in what became an incredibly sloppy showing.

1st Period:

Another day, another game starting off with a Matt Rempe fight the second the fourth line touched the ice. Just as it was initiated less than 24 hours ago, Rempe was approached by a tough veteran in warm-ups and as soon as they met during play, the gloves were off. Probably the first one where the opponent got the best of the Rangers rookie but nevertheless, the kid continues to bring the energy. However, it might be time for him to learn that he doesn’t necessarily need to accept every single challenge, especially in back-to-back stretches.

Soon after the fight, Jacob Trouba was sent off for holding Justin Danforth which gave Columbus the game’s first power play. Just as the penalty kill was coming to an end, Kirill Marchenko fed a cross-crease pass over to Dmitri Voronkov who was able to tuck it home to give the Jackets an early 1-0 lead.

Columbus certainly had the momentum through the first half of the opening  period as they were playing a fast-paced, tough game that was giving the Rangers some trouble. They nearly made it a 2-0 game as Jonathan Quick robbed them of a chance with a desperate sliding save that he was able to get an arm on.

Artemiy Panarin almost got the Rangers on the board with a pretty backhander that went off the post but was frozen under Elvis Merzlikins. The Rangers offense certainly picked up from there and with just over five minutes to go in the period, Panarin would properly get them on the board.

A tremendous play at the point from Fox sent Panarin, who was already pretty deep in the zone, in all alone to roof a shot past Merzlikins to tie the game up at one. Panarin loves to show up against his former team and what better way to do so than by hitting your career high goal total in a season? (33)

The Rangers nearly took the lead on multiple occasions in the final stretch of the period. First up, it was Matt Rempe who came so close to hammering home another loose puck in front of the net as he’s shown us that he’s been a great addition to the fourth line, not just from a physical standpoint. On the next shift, Jimmy Vesey made a great play at the Rangers blue line to take the puck in all alone but the shot went off the post to keep the game tied at one.

Quick had one more big save to come up with as he held down the fort in strong fashion as the Blue Jackets hacked away at the loose puck. He would have a great period for the Rangers, coming up with a total of 16 saves on 17 Columbus shots. Wasn’t a great period for the Rangers but they picked it up in the back half and seemed to find their offense more as the game went on, just three shots behind Columbus.

2nd Period:

Very unideal start for the Rangers in the second as the Blue Jackets immediately picked up their offense and found the back of the net just 18 seconds in. Voronkov went for the wrap-around as Quick was without a stick and it was Kirill Marchenko who finished on a nice individual effort to throw the puck in the back of the net.

The Rangers were not looking good through the start of the second and it wasn’t long before we saw some line juggling. Mika Zibanejad took a shift in the middle of Panarin and Alexis Lafrenière to be followed by Vincent Trocheck between Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko. Something had to give seeing as the Rangers only had one shot on goal through the first eight and a half minutes of the period.

Will Cuylle ended up drawing the first Columbus penalty of the night as Ivan Provorov was sent off for tripping nearing the midway point of the game. The Rangers power play had a pretty dominant showing but continued to opt for the pass more than they likely should’ve. On top of that, the shots they were taking, Columbus was doing a good job of getting in front of them which led to a successful penalty kill.

A minute or so later, the Rangers fourth line went to work yet again and this time it was Adam Edström finding the back of the net to tie the game up 2-2. Initially, it looked like it was another Rempe goal but the pass from Edström hopped over his stick and went off the skate of Jake Bean. Regardless, great effort from the Rangers rookies to tie things up once again.

Unfortunately, the score wouldn’t hold as Jack Roslovic fired a shot top shelf over a sliding Jonathan Quick off an outstanding tape-to-tape pass from Johnny Gaudreau. A brutal night for the Rangers defensively.

Those struggles would continue as another chance from Columbus required a diving effort from Barclay Goodrow to keep them from extending the lead. To make matters worse, Jacob Trouba would give the Jackets another chance on the power play as he was called for holding Kent Johnson in his own corner. The Rangers came up with a successful penalty kill but their defensive shortcomings continued to cause problems.

With a minute and a half to go in the second, the Miller-Trouba pairing seemingly forgot how to play defense as they watched Columbus’ top line walk in as Ivan Provorov let a shot go flying past Quick to make it a 4-2 game. A lead they would take into the second intermission as the Rangers were continuing to be out-shot, now 30-22. Still, it felt like this game was in reach, the Rangers just needed to be much better defensively and find a way to get back on the board.

3rd Period:

Things were looking a little better to start the third period but for as many chances the Rangers were getting, they were allowing Columbus the same amount. It felt like the Rangers had a better control on things but they were still allowing the Jackets to hang around as their defensive zone lapses were still generating issues. It didn’t help that Elvis Merzlikins was having a strong night of his own that was shutting down all of the Rangers best chances through the first half of the period.

With just over seven minutes to go, the Rangers took another penalty which really didn’t help their chances in getting back in this game. This time it was Ryan Lindgren getting called for a high stick. Although, the Rangers were quite aggressive and immediately got off to a couple odd man rushes. One of which, Kreider had a perfect chance to fire a one-timer home but was a little off-balance as he let the shot go and Merzlikins was able to make the pad save.

As the final five minutes kicked off, the Rangers were slowly but surely beginning to throw everything they could on net but Merzlikins continued to come up with save after save, showing no signs of slowing down. With three and a half to go, Laviolette had two consecutive icing calls to consider pulling Quick and on the second time around, opted to do so. Zibanejad had one good look on a one-timer but the Rangers were struggling to hold the zone let alone get anything set up.

With just over two minutes to go, Dmitri Voronkov played the puck with his hand off a neutral zone face-off which gave the Rangers a power play chance to close out regulation. The Rangers had a couple of really good chances but couldn’t hit the net, couldn’t make the clean plays and couldn’t beat Merzlikins. With the franchise record at play, you hate to see it but the fact of the matter was this team just didn’t have it as they really seemed to fall short of energy during the important parts of this game.

It’s been a busy, morale heavy week for this Rangers team. Can’t blame them too much for not having it in the second half of a back-to-back after a five game week. Thankfully, this team will have a couple days between their next outing which will be a rematch with the Jackets back in New York on Wednesday Night.