Rangers first NHL team to hit 40 wins, defeat Blue Jackets 4-1

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1, in the second game of home-and-home after losing in Columbus on Sunday.

Artemi Panarin led the way offensively for New York with two goals and an assist. Igor Shesterkin picked up his seventh win in a row, making 30 saves in the process.

“It was definitely an excellent feeling,” Panarin said. “Conversation in the locker room was to return the debt to Columbus.”

Cole Sillinger scored the lone goal of the game for the Blue Jackets. Elvis Merzlikins got the starting nod in net for Columbus and played well, making 26 saves. 

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New York Rangers 4 vs Columbus Blue Jackets 1

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The first period featured plenty of open ice and numerous odd-man rushes. Despite the rapid pace and several outstanding opportunities for both teams, the period ultimately showcased the exceptional skills of the goaltenders.

Merzlikins in particular was remarkable, making an impressive 17 saves in the first period alone. His remarkable effort kept the Blue Jackets in the game, hindering the Rangers’ attempts to capitalize on their chances. Similarly, Shesterkin held his ground for the Rangers, making nine saves in a scoreless opening frame.

The second period saw a significant shift in momentum, with the Rangers finding the back of the net twice to take a commanding 2-0 lead. The ice was first broken just over seven minutes into the period by Panarin, who scored his 34th goal of the season. 

The goal was not just a testament to ‘The Bread Man’s’ scoring prowess, but also marked his 80th point of the season. Achieving this milestone for the fourth time with the Rangers, Panarin joined the ranks of Rangers legends Mark Messier, who reached the 80-point mark five times, and Rod Gilbert, who did so four times.

The Blueshirts capitalized further on their momentum after Columbus’ Mathieu Olivier was penalized for cross-checking, leading to a power-play opportunity. Fox seized this chance by scoring his 10th goal of the season, extending the Rangers’ lead at 14:19. 

Fox’s achievement of hitting double-digit goals for the third consecutive season placed him in a distinguished category, becoming the first Rangers defenseman to accomplish the feat since Brian Leetch, who did so in four consecutive campaigns from 2000-01 to 2003-04.

In the third period, Columbus managed to narrow the gap at 3:24, when Sillinger scored his ninth goal of the season, making the score 2-1. 

The period also featured a notable physical altercation. While fans might have anticipated rookie Matt Rempe to engage in a fight following a tense moment, it was another rookie, Will Cuylle, who stepped up to the challenge. Cuylle dropped the gloves with Columbus’ Dmitry Voronkov in defense of his teammate Ivan Provorov at 15:32, following a hard hit. 

Despite a relentless offensive push from Columbus, attempting to even the score and capitalize on their momentum, the Rangers managed to secure their lead and ultimately the victory with two empty-net goals. Chris Kreider and Panarin both found the back of the net, with Kreider not only contributing to the win but also achieving a personal milestone by recording his third consecutive 30-goal season. 

This achievement placed him among the elite Rangers forwards such as Phil Esposito, Steve Vickers, Mike Gartner, Rod Gilbert, Anders Hedberg and Jean Ratelle, who also achieved this feat.

The 4-1 victory was significant for the Rangers, marking their 40th win of the season in just their 60th game. This tied the 1972-73 team record for the fewest games required by the Rangers to reach the 40-win mark. Additionally, the Rangers became the first team in the NHL to hit the 40-win total this season. They have won 11 of their past 12 games.

The Blueshirts will be back in action on Saturday night, as they head to Toronto to take on Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM. 

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