Blue Jackets edge Rangers in shootout to earn playoff spot
By VIN A. CHERWOO AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t get discouraged after giving up the tying goal in the closing seconds of regulation.
They kept their focus and won in a shootout to clinch the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Artemi Panarin scored in the shootout and the Blue Jackets earned their third straight trip to the postseason with a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.
“We were one goal away still, so whether it comes in overtime or the shootout, it doesn’t matter where you get it,” Columbus’ Matt Duchene said. “We believed that we had a chance to come out on top still. We wanted to finish it tonight. … When you’re one goal away, you want to make sure you get the job done.”
Ryan Dzingel and Panarin scored in the third period for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots through overtime and all three Rangers attempts in the tiebreaker.
“Just stayed with it, found a way,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “Bread (Panarin) scores a couple of big goals. … I think it’s a good lesson for us as we push forward. Just stay with it, not get too antsy.”
The Blue Jackets, 8-2-2 in their past 12 games, hold the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus pulled within one point of Carolina for the first wild card heading into the final day of the regular season on Saturday. The Blue Jackets close the season at Ottawa, while the Hurricanes play at Philadelphia.
Chris Kreider scored early in the second period and Pavel Buchnevich tied it in the closing seconds of regulation for the Rangers. Alexandar Georgiev finished with 39 saves in New York’s third straight loss and 16th in the past 20 (4-10-6) heading into the finale at Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
“Everybody battled so hard,” Georgiev said. “It was this close of a game. … Wish we would have won.”
After Panarin beat Georgiev in the second round of the shootout, Bobrovsky denied Tony DeAngelo on the Rangers’ last attempt to secure the win.
Bobrovsky is 18-8-0 since Feb. 1.
“He has found his game for quite a while, and it kind of goes unnoticed,” Tortorella said. “Goaltending is a very important part of winning in this league. Bob was a huge part of it tonight.”
Panarin gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead with some nifty puck-handling as he got a pass from David Savard on the left side, passed the puck to himself to get around a defender as he skated to the middle of the ice and beat Georgiev top shelf for his 28th with 5:33 left.
With the goalie pulled for an extra skater, Buchnevich tied it for the Rangers with 7 seconds left as his centering pass for Brett Howden in front went in off Bobrovsky’s left leg for his 21st.
“I’d rather take a 2-1 win and save a lot of medicine for the hearts,” Bobrovsky joked. “But it is what it is, we got it done in the shootout. We’re happy.”
Dzingel tied the score 1-1 at 2:25 of the third on a 3-on-1 rush for his 26th of the season. It came on Columbus’ 28th shot of the game and ended Georgiev’s career-best scoreless streak at 149 minutes, 23 seconds.
Bobrovsky had an acrobatic sprawled-out save to his left on Howden on a Rangers 3-on-1 rush with 8:20 left to keep the score tied.
Kreider gave New York a 1-0 lead at 1:47 of the second with his career high-tying 28th of the season. Mika Zibanejad brought the puck up the right side, held the puck as he skated into the right circle, and passed across the middle to Kreider, who beat Bobrovsky for his second goal in 16 games.
The Rangers had several chances to add to their lead, but Bobrovsky stood tall.
Georgiev, stellar in keeping the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard in the first, stopped wrist shots by Josh Anderson and Pierre-Luc Dubois and a tip try by Matt Duchene shortly before Kreider’s goal. He also denied a backhand by Riley Nash from the left side 4:05 into the middle period.
Columbus controlled play for most of the first period and had several great scoring chances while outshooting New York 15-6. However, they couldn’t get anything past Georgiev.
NOTES: Blue Jackets F Oliver Bjorkstrand snapped a six-game goal scoring streak, remaining tied with Rick Nash (2005-06 season) for the third-longest streak in franchise history, one behind Geoff Sanderson (2002-03) and Cam Atkinson (earlier this season) for the franchise record. … Columbus lost the first meeting 5-4 in a shootout at home on Nov. 10, before winning the last three. The Blue Jackets won 4-3 in overtime at MSG on Dec. 27 and 7-5 at home on Jan. 13. … Rangers D Neal Pionk played in his 100th game. … Kreider has scored in five straight games against Columbus.
Blue Jackets: At Ottawa on Saturday night to close the regular season.
Rangers: At Pittsburgh in the season finale on Saturday night.
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