Rangers seek first win at home, brace for Blue Jackets

NHL

All the good feelings from sweeping a four-game road trip quickly dissipated for the New York Rangers on Monday.

After being dominated by the Calgary Flames, the Rangers hope to produce a significantly better showing on home ice Friday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Rangers are 0-1-1 at home to start the season.

The Rangers return to the ice after having three days to digest everything they did wrong in a 5-1 loss to the Flames. New York took its second 5-1 loss of the season when it allowed 37 shots on goal and did not survive 20 giveaways and other misplays against one of the league’s hottest teams.

“We want to make those skilled plays all the time and there’s a fine line between making those skilled plays that work and those skilled plays that wind up in the back of our net on Grade A scoring chances,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We can’t make those mistakes.”

The Rangers took the loss after a 4-0-0 trip through Montreal, Toronto, Nashville and Ottawa. The trip was capped by New York scoring three times in the final 5:23 to rally from a two-goal deficit in a 3-2 win over the Senators on Saturday.

“I think it’s more just puck management,” New York’s Ryan Strome said after returning from a bout with COVID-19. “When we had chances (against Calgary), we were simple, we were straight lines, kind of what you’ve seen the last little while. A template of what makes us successful. Then we’re throwing pucks in the middle a little bit, I think a little bit sloppy and not our best execution.”

Kevin Rooney scored New York’s lone goal, preceding Calgary scoring three times in the final period.

The Rangers played without Kaapo Kakko but he may return from his upper-body injury. They also may be without rugged winger Ryan Reaves, who sustained a lower-body injury in the first period Monday.

Columbus also has been off since Monday. The Blue Jackets have alternated wins and losses in the past four games after scoring 10 times in their 2-0 start. On Monday, the Blue Jackets bounced back from a loss by posting a 4-1 win over the visiting Dallas Stars.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, Gregory Hofmann and Zach Werenski each collected a goal and an assist, while goaltender Elvis Merzlikins improved to 4-0 with a 31-save performance.

“I thought we had a solid game all the way through,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “I am trying to think of anybody I didn’t really like. Their compete level tonight was very high, Elvis was good all the way up through our D, our forwards. We had contributions from everybody. It was a good night for us.”

Columbus has had 11 players get at least one goal so far. Hofmann scored his first career goal after the 28-year-old was put on the same line as Bjorkstrand, second on the team with three tallies. Boone Jenner leads with four.

Columbus also is benefitting from Merzlikins’ strong start. He enters with a .952 save percentage and 1.47 goals-against average. Last season, he was 8-12-5 with a 2.77 GAA and .916 save percentage in 28 games (23 starts).

The Blue Jackets have won eight of the past 12 meetings. The teams are meeting for the first time since New York’s 3-1 win in Columbus on Feb. 14, 2020.

–Field Level Media

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