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56° Good Afternoon

Oscar Lindberg scores twice as Rangers win home opener over Blue Jackets

New York Rangers center Oscar Lindberg is congratulated

New York Rangers center Oscar Lindberg is congratulated by his teammates after he scores against Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky during the first period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Three games in four nights. Six points. A fine way for the Rangers to start the season.

They wrapped up the triple play with a 5-2 dusting of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the home opener on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Rookie center Oscar Lindberg scored his third and fourth goals of the season in a three-goal first period and Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves.

"When we first looked at the schedule, we knew they didn't throw us any bones to start the season," Marc Staal said.

Indeed. The Blueshirts opened in Chicago with the Blackhawks raising their Stanley Cup banner -- and the visitors left with a 3-2 win. On Friday night, they scored three late goals to shock the Blue Jackets, 4-2, in Columbus' home opener. On Saturday night, they took a 4-0 lead after two periods and completed the trifecta.

"It's a huge boost to our guys," Ryan McDonagh said. "We obviously haven't had good starts to seasons in a couple years. We know we can improve defensively . . . but at the end of the day, we found a way to win three pretty good, important games.''

Lundqvist has been the stopper, allowing only six goals and making some highlight-reel saves. He credited coach Alain Vigneault with some motivation. Said Lundqvist, "The last thing he told me before I went back to Sweden was: 'You have to be better when we start.' That stayed with me the entire summer."

Another Swede has joined Lundqvist on the Broadway stage: Lindberg, 23, who has accomplished something unmatched by any other rookie in franchise history: four goals in three games to start a season.

"I don't try to overthink it, I'm just trying to play," he said. Along with Viktor Stalberg, who has three assists, and J.T. Miller, who has four, that line has worked magic.

"He's going to where the goals are scored,'' Miller said of Lindberg. "When we create a little havoc, cause turnovers, he's always in the right spot, wide open. It's a scoring knack, hard to come by. He's making our line look good.''

Lindberg, who was Hartford's best player last season, continued his stirring start.

Kevin Hayes forced Sergei Bobrovsky into a skate save, and Lindberg, near the right post, didn't miss at 1:20. Less than four minutes later, Miller targeted Lindberg in front with a pass from the left and the puck deflected past Bobrovsky at 5:12. A review upheld the call on the ice. Thirty-six seconds later, Jarret Stoll found Dom Moore with a saucer pass.

The flurry capped a six-goal outburst in 8:24 of playing time that started Friday night when the Rangers scored three goals in the final 2:36 to upend the Jackets. In all, the Rangers scored seven goals in the first period of three games.

Derick Brassard made it 4-0 at 19:12 of the second, pretty much sealing the outcome. After Bobrovsky was replaced by Curtis McElhinney, Derek Stepan converted Chris Kreider's pass at 1:26 for his second goal of the season for a 5-0 lead.

Lundqvist's shutout bid ended when Ryan Johansen, alone in front, beat him at 4:35 of the third period. Lundqvist had stoned him in the second, diving from the side after a bad carom off the boards to bat away Johansen's shot with his stick hand. The Jackets' Boone Jenner added a power-play goal at 14:08.

"They're a great team," Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "They are constantly at the top of the league for a reason. When they get up by that many, they have a great goaltender who can shut the door."


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