After winning their last two games in overtime, the Columbus Blue Jackets went up by three goals in the third period Sunday night against the Rangers and appeared ready to hit cruise control.
It wasn’t going to be that easy, though.
The Rangers scored two quick goals later in the third to turn a rout into a tight game down the stretch. It wasn’t until Nick Foligno scored a wrap-around goal with 1:21 left that Columbus had some breathing room on the way to 7-5 victory.
Rangers coach David Quinn channeled the salty Columbus coach John Tortorella in his postgame comments, referring to his team’s effort as “a freakin’ joke.” The Rangers, he said, lacked what he called “a bit of a snarl.”
“(Columbus is) a team that competes hard on pucks and tests your mettle, and we failed miserably tonight,” Quinn said. “Miserably. Our lack of determination on one-on-one battles, fishing for pucks. You do that in this league, that’s what happens … .”
Foligno scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky returned from a team suspension to stop 22 shots for the Blue Jackets, who have won four of the last five and jumped Pittsburgh to move into second place behind Washington in the Metropolitan Division.
“It’s a weird game when you’re up 6-3 and they’re pushing and pressing and get some flukey ones,” Foligno said. “But we stuck with it and did the right things and found a way to get the job done. That’s what you have to do — you don’t care how it gets done, just get those two points.”
Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin each had a goal and an assist, Ryan Murray had two assists and nine other Blue Jackets picked up points in the offensive explosion. Columbus had 19 shots in the first period and outshot the Rangers 40-27 for the game.
“We had the puck all night long,” Tortorella said.
Mats Zuccarello had two goals, and Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider and Jimmy Vesey also scored for the Rangers, who have lost six of the last seven and are languishing near the bottom of the Metro.
Alexandar Georgiev, spelling regular starter Henrik Lundqvist on the second night of a back-to-back, had 33 saves.
Anthony Duclair, Lukas Sedlak and David Savard also scored for the Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky — who had been benched for Thursday’s game for violating a team policy and didn’t play in Saturday’s overtime win over Washington — wasn’t terrific, but held off the Rangers after they pulled the goalie for a sixth skater late in the game.
The team didn’t release details of what happened with the two-time Vezina Trophy winner, but Bobrovsky acknowledged he let his emotions run away from him. He said he spoke to the team and cleared the air.