Given the directions the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers have been sliding lately, it hardly comes as a surprise that the decisive goal Thursday came off a Columbus stick and into their own net.
Mark Letestu failed to control the puck to the right of Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, watching in horror as it slid into past the posts. The goal, credited to Carl Hagelin – his second of the night – turned out to be the difference in a 4-2 decision, as the Rangers won their fifth game of their last six contests to improve to 8-8-0.
“That was embarrassing hockey tonight, and to me that’s losing hockey, the way we played. We got exactly what we deserved,” Jackets coach Todd Richards said after the loss.
The loss was the Jackets’ fifth in a row, dropping them to 5-10-0 overall in front of a modest but lively crowd of just under 12,000 at Nationwide Arena.
“We shouldn’t have to talk about [the effort], but unfortunately right now we’re talking about it…we should hold each other to a high standard and be able to know that the guy sitting next to us in the dressing room is going to go out and perform and do his job and do everything he can to help the team win,” Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said.
There was no shortage of familiar faces on either bench, as the two teams met for the first time since a pair of blockbuster trades between them during last season. Former Jackets Derek Dorsett, Derick Brassard, and John Moore – each acquired in the trade deadline deal for Marion Gaborik – made their return to Nationwide Arena, while Gaborik, along with Rick Nash trade acquisitions Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov faced their former teammates for the first time.
Nash, the Blue Jackets franchise leader in nearly every offensive category, was unable to make his return to the ice in Columbus as he continues to deal with concussion-related issues. Nash has only been able to play in three games this season.
Hagelin got the scoring started early in the first, when he deflected a shot past Bobrovsky and into the net. The Jackets answered back late in the period, with defenseman Fedor Tyutin sneaking one past Rangers backup goalie Cam Talbot. Talbot started in place of star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who did not play after the Rangers’ victory Wednesday against the Penguins.
In the second period, it was again a deflected shot early in the period that put the Rangers back in front, when captain Ryan Callahan registered his second goal in as many nights. After Letestu’s own goal put the Rangers up 3-1, Jackets rookie defenseman Ryan Murray answered back with a goal off an assist from James Wisniewski – the 200th point of Wisniewski’s career.
However, the Jackets were unable to break through and tie the game in the third period, eventually surrendering a goal on an empty net by Ryan McDonagh that put the game away.
“We had the same start last year. I know it’s not ideal, but we’ve got to take a step back tomorrow and regroup, and figure out how we can win here Saturday…times like this test the character of the individual, but you can’t let yourself get down,” Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said.
Richards did not agree with Johnson’s assessment of using last season’s turnaround as motivation, however.
“It’s a different year. It’s different. We’ve got different players. An 82 game schedule. It’s different,” Richards said.
The Jackets will attempt to get back on track at Nationwide Arena when they take on the New York Islanders Saturday. That puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.