Blue Jackets-Rangers Preview
The New York Rangers knew after a woeful effort Friday night they'd have to quickly move on. That resulted in a performance they won't want to forget about any time soon.
The Rangers look to build on their highest-scoring game of the season Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, though they'll have to contend with the return of reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
New York (21-20-2) won two of its first three on a five-game road trip, but started the new year on a sour note by giving up the game's first four goals in a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday.
The Rangers concluded their trip in Toronto on Saturday with a performance much more to their liking. The league's fourth-lowest scoring team coming in scored the game's first five and finished with a season-high 50 shots in a 7-1 rout of the Maple Leafs.
"It was huge for us," goaltender Cam Talbot told the league's official website. "We had to finish strong. We came out flying tonight. The guys got the first goal and never looked back. We played sound defensively as well. Tonight we took care of both ends (of the ice) and that's why we got the result we did."
It's unclear if Talbot or Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes Monday, but it's quite clear who has given New York a better chance to win lately. Talbot has allowed one goal in three of his last four starts to improve to 9-3-0 with an Eastern Conference-best 1.66 goals-against average this season.
Talbot relieved Lundqvist on Dec. 12 at Madison Square Garden after the former Vezina winner gave up three goals to the Blue Jackets in 11:10. Talbot stopped 13 of 14 shots in that 4-2 loss, and made 32 saves in a 4-2 win at Columbus on Nov. 7.
''I've always just kind of started as a backup and then started playing more games, so I've been in these situations before and you learn from every situation you're in,'' Talbot said.
While the Rangers play their lone home game in a 17-day stretch, the Blue Jackets (18-20-4) will look to conclude their four-game road trip with a second win.
Curtis McElhinney stopped all 34 shots in a 2-0 win at Phoenix on Thursday, but goaltending has been an issue in the other two games. McElhinney struggled in a 5-3 loss at Colorado on Tuesday and couldn't hold a two-goal lead in a 6-2 loss at St. Louis on Saturday.
Those six goals were all scored in a stretch of 26:10 starting in the middle of the second period.
''We played a 20-minute game, tonight,'' coach Todd Richards said. ''They made a push and got their game to another level and we were unwilling to do that. They played a real simple game. We stopped skating. Our compete level wasn't nearly good enough. Body language wasn't good coming off the ice.
''Eventually there has to be a response. I didn't like the way we reacted to it."
Though Richards was mostly concerned with his skaters, he'll have a familiar face in net Monday for the first time since Dec. 3. Bobrovsky has missed 12 games with a strained groin but is expected to start against the Rangers.
Bobrovsky, however, is 0-4-1 with a 2.99 GAA in his last five starts versus New York.
Rangers winger Rick Nash didn't record a point against the Jackets on Dec. 12 in his first game against his former team, the beginning of an 11-game stretch in which he's scored only once.