In their last ten games, the Rangers have played into overtime on six occasions, losing five of those games. In another season, this trend would be a mere footnote. It would be an anomaly given scant annotation at the bottom of a New York Post or Daily News game recap.
But in this particular season, the Rangers’ first of a rebuild, the extra-session losses are becoming an actual nuisance for a franchise that equidistant between a playoff spot and dead last in the entire NHL. While the Rangers aren’t actively tanking, when they lose it would behoove them to do so in regulation more often, or they may find themselves in the unenviable position of having the league’s worst win-loss record at the end of the year, but not in possession of the best lottery odds for the first overall draft pick. That would be a true worst-case scenario.
Last night’s game largely followed the script of the previous nine. The Rangers battled hard, led by a goal, capitulated under late pressure and lost in overtime. It wasn’t all bad. Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes were absolute beasts, and Brady Skjei looks to be coming out of his early-season malaise. Overall, the Rangers limited Columbus’ chances, and played a strong third period until Ryan Strome’s goal was disallowed correctly upon review for offside. Columbus won it just 31 seconds into overtime. Let’s take a look at the goals:
CBJ 1, NYR 0
This sequence starts with a terrible neutral zone turnover by Kevin Hayes (it was probably his only bad play of the game, and it was costly). After Cam Atkinson picks off the pass, the Rangers never get set defensively. Boone Jenner makes an alert pass and finds Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has lots of time in the slot to finish.
CBJ 1, NYR 1
After his turnover, Hayes redeems himself by executing this 3-on-1 perfectly. He waits out Zach Werenski and slides a perfect pass to Jimmy Vesey for the easy tap-in goal. This was a play straight out of the good days of the AV era, as the Rangers generated offense off a turnover at the blue line and finished the play with a pretty slot-line pass. Credit Vlad Namestnikov for starting the play.
CBJ 2, NYR 1
The hot take here is that it’s a goal Henrik Lundqvist will want back, but the real story is how the Blue Jackets break the Rangers’ forecheck and exit the defensive zone. This is what winning hockey looks like. Take note, Rangers defensemen.
CBJ 2, NYR 2
David Quinn, when asked recently about the five forward power play unit, vowed to blow it up (literally, he said “Kaboom”). But the coach stuck with it, and was rewarded just seven seconds into the Rangers only man-advantage. Chris Kreider did what he does best (he has the most deflected-in goals in the NHL since 2014, per MSG!), tipping in Mats Zuccarello’s wrist-shot.
NYR 3, CBJ 2
Brady Skjei makes this play happen on his own, skating coast-to-coast and beating multiple Columbus checks. His drop pass needed a fortunate bounce off a skate, but it found its way to the opportunistic Kreider, who potted his 19th goal of the year.
NYR 3, CBJ 3
The Rangers were rightfully upset after this goal, as the face-off probably should have been retaken (replays showed the puck never hit the ice after it was dropped by the linesman). The Blue Jackets took advantage of the bounces – not just off the face-off, but also off of Marc Staal’s leg – and tied the game.
CBJ 4, NYR 3 (OT)
Kevin Hayes got beat to the outside by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Hayes probably should have given him more space, but Dubois really turned on the jets and made a great play. Such is life when it’s 3 on 3.
The Rangers played roughly to their season averages, with Columbus owning 55% of the total shot attempts at 5v5 (48-39), and winning the scoring chances and high danger chances battles (28-18 and 8-5, respectively). Still, the Rangers were by no means bad in this game, and indeed might have won it if Strome had been able to stay onside.
After a very disjointed December schedule, the Rangers will settle into an every-other-day rhythm for the next few weeks. They travel to Nashville on Saturday for a game against the struggling Predators. Game time is 8:00 PM ET.