NEW YORK (AP) After taking a big lead early in the third period, the Columbus Blue Jackets relaxed a little, and it almost cost them a crucial division game.
Seth Jones scored twice, Alexander Wennberg had a goal and two assists and the Jackets led by six goals before holding on to beat the New York Rangers 6-4 on Tuesday night.
”We just sat back,” Jones said. ”Teams in this league aren’t going to quit. We’ve got to play a 60-minute game. … First two periods were pretty good, third period we decided to sit back and the Rangers are a good team. They put four in on us and it’s not something we wanted, but we got the win.”
Article continues below ...
Brandon Saad added a goal and an assist, and Nick Foligno and Matt Calvert also scored for the Blue Jackets. Joonas Korpisalo, starting in place of All-Star Sergei Bobrovsky, stopped 33 shots.
The Blue Jackets won for the sixth time in 13 games since a franchise-record 16-game winning streak and beat the Rangers for the second time in three meetings this season after losing the previous seven.
Columbus pulled two points behind Metropolitan Division-leading Washington and remained three points ahead of third-place Pittsburgh.
”Every team is right there for either a playoff spot or top of the division so they’re all important,” the Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky said. ”We’ll take the points, but we’ve got to get a lot better as a team.”
Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Chris Kreider and Kevin Klein scored in the third period for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled less than four minutes into the second period after giving up three goals on 16 shots. He was replaced by Antti Raanta, who finished with seven saves on 10 shots.
The Blue Jackets took control with four goals in the second period, and then went ahead 6-0 when Calvert tipped a pass by Zach Werenski at 1:49 of the third.
Vesey got the Rangers on the board at 2:51 of the third, shooting the puck in off Korpisalo from behind the goal line for his 12th. It was the first goal for New York in 114:11, including a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia last Wednesday.
Grabner deflected a shot by Brady Skjei for his 22nd at 5:01, and Kreider got a pass from Mika Zibanejad at the right side of the net, turned around and fired it past Korpisalo for his 19th just 1:11 later.
Klein capped the scoring with his first of the season with 1:07 remaining.
”We’re a young team, learning as we go here,” said Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Shaw, who addressed media after the game in place of head coach John Tortorella. ”Sometimes you get behind the eight ball and lose some momentum as we did in the third period.”
With the teams skating 4-on-4, Saad gave the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead at 1:06 of the second by taking a pass from Wennberg on the left side and firing it past Lundqvist for his 17th of the season and 100th of his career.
The teams were 4-on-4 again when Wennberg scored on a rebound on a long shot by Ryan Murray that Lundqvist knocked down with his glove but couldn’t snare at 3:42. That ended Lundqvist’s night.
”I know I need to be better,” the veteran goalie said. ”That third goal was a killer. … As a group we responded really well in the third period with the intensity and energy we had.”
Jones got a pass from Scott Hartnell in front and fired it past Raanta for his first career two-goal game and a 4-0 lead with 7:08 remaining in the second. Foligno scored with 5:56 left to cap the Blue Jackets’ second-period outburst.
Jones’ long slap shot from the right point beat a screened Lundqvist at 3:53 of the first.
NOTES: Columbus began a final stretch with 18 of 34 games against Metropolitan Division teams. … The Blue Jackets improved to 23-6-3 when scoring first and 21-1-2 when leading after two periods. … The teams meet in Columbus on Feb. 13 before wrapping up the five-game season series back here at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 26. … Grabner has five goals and an assist in the teams’ three meetings. … New York 0 for 15 on the power play over its last five games and 3 for 30 in the last 11. … Earlier in the day, the Rangers announced coach Alain Vigneault was given a two-year contract extension through the 2019-20 season.
Blue Jackets: At defending champion Pittsburgh on Friday night.
Rangers: At Buffalo on Thursday night.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP