The Christmas break is over, and the games will be coming fast and furious for the Rangers now. To stay in the playoff race, they need to find ways to win as many games as they can and get points from the tough games.
They got a point Thursday night, and it would have to do. Pierre-Luc Dubois’ goal 31 seconds into overtime dealt the Rangers another crushing loss as they fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3, at Madison Square Garden.
Chris Kreider had a pair of goals, the second of which broke a 2-2 tie with 7:54 left in regulation. They seemed to get an insurance goal by Ryan Strome a few minutes later, but that goal was nullified after video replay determined that Strome had been offside by the slightest of margins.
Zach Werenski’s goal on a deflection off someone in front tied the score at 3 with 2:20 left in regulation.
It was the Rangers’ second straight overtime game, fourth in the last six and sixth in nine. They’ve lost five of the six.
“I thought we played really well in the third — got another point again,’’ said a glum Henrik Lundqvist, who picked up an assist on Kreider’s second goal. “The good thing about playing every second day, you can’t afford to stop to think about this too long. It’s been too many nights with this feeling now, and it starts to really eat on me. It’s up to us to figure it out, get it done.’’
With the score 2-2, Brady Skjei’s attempted pass deflected off Columbus forward Cam Atkinson’s leg and dropped right into Kreider’s wheelhouse. He pounced on it and scored his 19th goal at 12:06 of the third.
But after Strome’s no-goal, an icing call set up a faceoff deep in the Rangers’ end. A funky drop on the faceoff — the puck seemed to hit a Columbus player and ricocheted right to Werenski at the top of the left circle — led to the tying goal on a shot that hit a Ranger in front and changed direction to beat Lundqvist.
Rangers coach David Quinn refused to write this one off to tough breaks, though.
“The bottom line is, we had chances to do things right before the icing, which allowed the defensive zone faceoff, and that’s the only thing we can control,’’ he said. “There were situations where we had chances to get the puck out and we didn’t execute what we were supposed to do. And we ended up spending a little bit of time in our end, which we shouldn’t have, and then we took an icing. It’s learning how to win.’’
Lundqvist was beaten twice in the first period, by Oliver Bjorkstrand at 9:17 and by David Savard on a wrist shot from the right wing that somehow got by Lundqvist’s blocker at 16:08 for a 2-1 lead.
But the red-hot Kevin Hayes set up Jimmy Vesey’s 10th goal in the first period and had an assist on Kreider’s power-play goal at 1:45 of the second.