Kreider, Shesterkin help Rangers beat Blue Jackets 4-0

NHL

NEW YORK (AP)Chris Kreider scored two power-play goals, Igor Shesterkin stopped 31 shots for his third career shutout and first this season, and the New York Rangers got their first home win with a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

Ryan Strome and Alexis Lafreniere also scored, and Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin each had three assists to help New York get its fifth win in six games.

”We managed the puck real well,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”I didn’t think we turned it over near as much as we did in the prior game. Our forecheck was a lot better. I thought we had 20 guys ready to play tonight. That was the big thing. … Tonight’s game was the most complete we played.”

It was a big bounce-back win for the Rangers, who lost 5-1 at home to Calgary on Monday night after a 4-0-0 road trip.

”Last game wasn’t pretty for any of us,” Fox said. ”It was definitely a better performance today. … We played smart.”

Shesterkin had 12 saves in the first period, seven in the second and 12 in the third to improve to 4-1-1 with a 1.81 goals-against average.

”He’s been incredible.,” Gallant said. ”He was in the zone tonight. He’s athletic. He’s strong. I think he’s one of the top goalies in the league, no doubt.”

Elvis Merzlikins made 33 saves for Columbus, which lost for the third time in five games and fell to 0-2-0 on the road. Merzlikins came in 4-0-0 with a 1.47 GAA in his first four starts.

”I liked our first six, seven minutes,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. ”Then blown coverages. … We stopped skating, we gave up way too much and then it snowballed the wrong way.”

The Rangers began the third period on a power play that carried over from the second. Kreider took advantage as he deflected a pass from Panarin on the right side past Merzlikins to push the lead to 3-0 at 1:19.

Kreider deflected a shot by Foxfrom the right side with 8:37 remaining with the Rangers on another power play for his sixth of the season. It was New York’s fifth power-play goal in 29 chances this season – all by Kreider.

”To get those two by Kreids on the power play, it was really key for those guys,” Gallant said. ”Hopefully it’ll build confidence for them and they’ll keep moving on.”

Leading 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Rangers controlled play for much of the second period. Shesterkin made a stellar save on Oliver Bjorkstrand in front during a Blue Jackets power play 7 1/2 minutes into the middle period, keeping Columbus off the scoreboard and drawing chants of ”I-gor! I-gor!” from the Madison Square Garden crowd.

Merzlikins stopped a tip by Kreider with 6 1/2 minutes left, a shot by Strome just 20 seconds later and an attempt by Lafreniere with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the period. The goalie also made several nice stops in the closing minutes and was sprawled on the ice and used his right pad to cover up a puck that rebounded off the end boards with about 20 seconds to go.

The Rangers outshot the Blue Jackets 13-12 and scored twice in a three-minute span during a fast-paced first period.

”It was definitely our best start,” Kreider said. ”We were getting pucks in deep, moving our feet. It is definitely a big step in the right direction for us.”

Columbus started out strong, getting five shots on goal in the first 2 1/2 minutes. New York then picked up its intensity.

Strome got the Rangers on the scoreboard first, taking a pass from Panarin in the middle and beating Merzlikins up high for his first of the season with 7:31 left in the opening period. Rookie defenseman Nils Lundkvist got his first NHL point on the play.

New York doubled its lead as Fox brought the puck around the back of Columbus’ net and sent a pass from the left corner across the front of the crease to a streaking Lafreniere, who quickly fired it past Merzlikins f or his third with 4:29 to go.

CLIMBING UP

Kreider’s first goal gave him 352 career points, breaking a tie with Petr Nedved for 27th place in franchise history.

LINEUP

Kaapo Kakko returned to the Rangers’ lineup after missing four games due to an upper-body injury. New York was also without forward Ryan Reaves, who left early in the first period against Calgary on Monday night. Gallant said Reaves, who is on IR, will accompany the team on its upcoming four-game trip.

Max Domi was back in the Blue Jackets’ lineup after missing four games due to a broken rib.

HONORING ESSENTIAL WORKERS

The Rangers honored essential workers, including first responders, healthcare personnel, nursing home attendants, transit employees and sanitation workers. The players wore special jerseys during warmups that were to be auctioned after the game.

UP NEXT

Blue Jackets: At New Jersey on Sunday.

Rangers: At Seattle on Sunday night to open a four-game trip.

Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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