Blue By-You, Rangers Exact Revenge on Columbus

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Revenge is a dish best served cold, especially when it’s the cold, Madison Square Garden ice.

Artemi Panarin scored twice and added an assist while Igor Shesterkin stayed hot with his 7th win in a row as the Rangers avenged their 10-game win streak ending loss Sunday in Columbus with a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets at the Garden last night.

The Rangers had payback on their minds as they were looking to get even after Sunday’s loss. “Conversation in the locker room was definitely to get back after last game and return the debt to Columbus,” said Panarin through a translator after the game.

The final score was not indicative of how close the game was as Columbus was a problem for the Rangers, who scored two empty net goals in the final minute to seal the deal

The Rangers had a 2-1 lead entering the third period but they had to hold off a Columbus team that seemed to give them problems in each and every one of their four meetings this season. The Blueshirts were 2-2 this season against the last place team in the Metropolitan Division. 

The Rangers played well enough to win this one, but there were defensive lapses where the Blue Jackets got too much room to operate. That’s where Shesterkin came in as he made some clutch saves to preserve the win as he made 11 of his 30 saves in the final twenty minutes.

Both goalies were sharp in the first period, particularly Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who stood on his head as the teams skated through a scoreless first period, but the Rangers struck first in the second.

The Rangers got a fortunate bounce off a linesman’s skate and Panarin took advantage by firing the puck past Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins for his 34th goal of the season. Vincent Trocheck had the assist after he won a face off in the offensive zone before the puck took that lucky bounce back to Panarin.

Panarin’s first goal gave him 80 points for the season, his fourth as a Ranger. Only Mark Messier (5) and Rod Gilbert (4) had more for the Blueshirts.

Later, with a little over six minutes left in the second, Trocheck laid a shoulder to shoulder hit on Blue Jackets winger Johnny Gaudreau and was immediately cross checked by Columbus tough guy Mathieu Olivier. The officials originally called a major penalty on Trocheck for a hit to the head, but calling a major penalty also gave them a chance to review the call.

After the review showed Trocheck had not hit Gaudreau’s head and the hit was legal, the Rangers ended up with a power play and with Olivier in the box, they took full advantage of the man advantage.

After Blue Jackets defenseman Erik Gudbranson coughed up the puck along the left wing boards, Chris Kreider, who had a goal and an assist, took it away and fed Adam Fox in the slot. The Rangers defenseman had room to fire the puck past Merzlikins for a 2-0 lead with 5:41 left in the second period.

It was the tenth goal of the season for the former Norris Trophy winner and he became the first Rangers defenseman with three straight 10 goal seasons since Hall of Famer Brian Leetch who had four in a row from 2000-2001 to 2003-2004.

Shesterkin came up big in the second period as he made consecutive saves on Alexander Nylander and Sean Kuraly to keep it a two goal lead after two.

In the third, Columbus broke through on Shesterkin, whose ability to handle the puck cost him this time.

With the teams skating four on four, the Ranger goaltender was behind the net and tried to pass the puck up the boards, but it was intercepted by Damon Severson who fired the puck towards the net. Shesterkin was able to get back and make the first save, but Cole Sillinger was able to bury the rebound to cut the lead to 2-1. Things got dicey from there as the Blue Jackets used the momentum to keep the pressure on in the Rangers zone.

Kirill Marchenko nearly tied the game when he got behind the Rangers defense. After Shesterkin saved his back hand attempt, he tripped Marchenko and the Blue Jackets went on the power play, but the Rangers had a big penalty kill to keep the lead.

The Rangers had only two shots on goal late in the third as the Blue Jackets were controlling the play and pressing to tie the game.

Columbus pulled Merzlikins but with less than a minute left, the Rangers had a two on one and Panarin unselfishly passed the puck to Kreider who hit the open net for his 30th goal of the season and a 3-1 lead.

Columbus pulled the goalie once again but Panarin had the puck just inside his own blue line and fired it all the way down the ice for his second goal of the game and his 35th of the season to put the game away with 11.9 seconds left.

It definitely seems like that’s something we’re getting better at, the confidence of going into a tight game in the third period,” said defenseman Ryan Lindgren. “A couple of big kills, which is always key. Shesty [Shesterkin] made some unbelievable saves, it’s definitely huge moving forward.”

The win was the Rangers’ 11th in their last 12 games and they also became the first team to 40 wins. “That’s a great job by the guys,” Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re not there, I guess we’re three quarters of the way there but we still got work to do and playoffs after that but before you can get to the last quarter and before we get the playoffs, you have to play some hockey that’s good hockey and I think our guys have done that.”

In the last four games of Shesterkin’s personal win streak, he’s allowed only one goal and has a .975 save percentage (149 savesof 153 shots).

He [Shesterkin] made a lot of big saves tonight,” Laviolette said. “Early on, he had to make a couple of big saves off a breakaway or partial breakaway. He was really good, wasn’t as much as he had been seeing cause I thought we were a little bit better but there’s still always some tough chances.”

The Rangers were not going to go the rest of the season undefeated, but it’s important to bounce back with a win after a streak has ended. The Edmonton Oilers have gone 5-5-1 since their 16-game win streak was snapped so this win was not pretty, but necessary for the Rangers to keep their recent momentum going.

I think we’ve done a pretty good job all year of playing a team we had recently played and not gotten the results we wanted and coming back and putting a win in the column so that was good to come back a couple of days later and do that,” Laviolette said.

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