The Rangers ventured to central Ohio for a crucial game against the Blue Jackets. With the two clubs tied in the standings at 78 points, the game had huge playoff implications and both clubs played the game like a playoff game. The game was a grinding, tough, and nasty match.
The Rangers found some life, found some goals and most importantly, found something that has been missing all season. Their balls.
The Blueshirts showed more grit in this game than they have shown all season. Benoit Pouliot dropped the gloves with Derek MacKenzie and Rick Nash battled all game with Sergei Bobrovsky. Nash broke in on Bob late in the second and with Jack Johnson hanging on his back made a power move to the net grazing the Columbus goalie as the puck crossed the line. Perhaps because of the contact with goalie (caused by Johnson,) the referee vehemently and immediately waived and off the goal. As Nash went to pick up his stick off the ice, Bobrovsky slapped it away from him. And that is when the Rangers found their balls. Possibly angered by the Bobrovsky slash to the back of his leg in the first, or the attempted trip between periods, Nash reached a boiling point. He gave Bobrovsky a quick two fisted jab to the chest/neck and a scrum ensued. Chris Kreider (who played with snarl all night) tossed Artem Anisimov around like a rag doll (poor Artie!) and Dan Girardi showed his lack of nastiness while Nash wrestled with Johnson.
The bit of nastiness seemed to enliven the NYR and tick off the BJ’s. Just 12 ticks in to the scoreless final frame, the Blue Jackets came after Nash, and the big guy stood up for himself. Nash threw several bombs at Matt Calvert and won a fight, that was sure to pump up his team mates.
But just 60 seconds later, Pouliot made a horrible giveaway. With light Columbus forecheck pressure in the NYR zone, Pouliot tired making a back pass for some strange reason and as his stick snapped he gave the puck directly to a wide-open Nick Foligno in the high slot. Foligno wired a bullet over Henri Lundqvist to give the BJS a 1-0 lead.
44 seconds later, Ryan McDonagh circled around the Columbus net and found Derek Stepan in the slot and D-Step tied the game at 1-1. Then Rangers kept working and got a grinding goal. Moving the puck below the BJ’s goal line, Derick Brassard too a pass from Anton Stralman and banked the puck off Bobrovsky and in from behind the net.
Carl Hagelin chipped in an empty-netter and the pumped up Blueshirts had a huge emotional win. The crucial victory gave them two more points in the playoff hunt and allowed them to leap-frog Columbus. More importantly, with under a dozen games remaining, the Rangers played with heart and with emotion. As Dave Maloney kept saying on MSG, they played angry. Hank was excellent and the NYR hustled and they fought and most importantly of all, they found their balls. They still don’t have any physical answers for the tougher teams, but they stood up for themselves and that builds chemistry, which is huge.
Back at in in NJ on Saturday.
Let’s go Rangers!