COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the fourth and final game of a long road trip that started in western Canada, the Rangers’ well ran dry.
After leading the league with 4.24 goals per game and allowing only four goals in three games on a trip to western Canada, the Blueshirts weren’t sharp physically or mentally and dropped a 4-2 decision to the hardworking Blue Jackets on Friday night. The deciding goal came with the Blue Jackets shorthanded.
“We chased the game a lot,” said coach Alain Vigneault, who saw a four-game winning streak end. “We didn’t start with the puck very much in the first two periods. There were some areas, puck decisions, we could have been better on. We had plenty of time to get acclimated [to the time change] . . . That’s no excuse.”
Vigneault was spot on. Unassisted goals from William Karlsson and Sam Gagner, off poor, forced passes into the middle from J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast, gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 advantage early in the second period. An unassisted goal by Michael Grabner pulled the Rangers (13-5), within one. Grabner intercepted Ryan Murray’s pass, sped in and beat Sergei Bobrovsky from 15 feet for his team-leading 11th goal at 11:04.
In the third, Mika Zibanejad tied the score at 2 from in front with a snap shot at 8:32, on assists from Brady Skjei and Nick Holden. The Rangers had a chance to take the lead on a power play, but the puck bounced away, the Jackets broke down on a two-on-one on Ryan McDonagh and Matt Calvert beat Henrik Lundqvist under his stick arm from about 30 feet for a 3-2 lead at 11:35. Calvert had taken Holden’s shot to the face midway through the second period and left a pool of blood on the ice.
Boone Jenner’s empty-netter at the buzzer sealed the victory for Columbus, which has won seven straight at home.
“After our second goal, we had a good feeling,” McDonagh said. “We just didn’t make it happen. You want to have those plays back; we’ve had a lot of success getting out of our zone clean, we didn’t do enough of that. We probably didn’t have as much jump, but we’ve got to play high percentage when we’re not clicking on all cylinders. It wasn’t great ice and we tried to be a little too cute at times.”
In the first period, Miller, unchallenged along the boards in his zone, attempted a pass that was picked off by Karlsson, who slapped a shot that went off Lundqvist’s pads at 16:34.
“The way he delayed the shot . . . obviously I want to stop that one. I kind of expected a high shot, just didn’t make the read,” Lundqvist said.
Fast tried a similar pass, although he was sort of trapped, and Gagner fired the puck off Lundqvist’s glove and in at 5:38 of the second.
Vigneault benched Miller in the third, because of “two turnovers, decisions with the puck that didn’t work out for us, and I went with some other players,” the coach said.
But on the winner, Lundqvist took the blame: “Just got beat by a hard shot. Beat me fair and square. Obviously, it’s tough to lose a game when you come back from 2-nothing and they score a shorthanded game-winner. In the end, it came down to one play, and the way we lost is disappointing.”