Rangers, Blue Jackets face quick turnaround
The Blue Jackets (9-6-1) headed west back to Columbus after a 2-1 victory on Friday night in Washington over the Capitals, the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Rangers (7-7-2) traveled 180 miles south from Detroit after a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in overtime to the Red Wings that ended their four-game winning streak.
The Blue Jackets didn't want to talk about facing the Capitals for the first time since losing a six-game series to the eventual champions in the first round of the playoffs last season after leading 2-0 and dropping Game 3 in overtime. But they clearly played inspired hockey with hard checking and stellar goaltending.
"I think they know they're playing against a pretty good team," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "They have to push and find a way to beat them. I don't think you need an extra push."
But when push came to shove, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was there for the Blue Jackets, finishing with 33 saves. He weathered an onslaught by the Capitals in the final minutes, including the final 43 seconds when Washington had a six-on-four advantage after pulling goalie Braden Holtby.
The lone goal that Bobrovsky allowed was on a second-period power play.
Bobrovsky has begun to return to his Vezina Trophy form after a slow start this season.
"He was outstanding in the first period," Tortorella said. "We could have been down 4-1. We were so sloppy."
Bobrovsky or backup Joonas Korpisalo could start in goal against the Rangers.
"I will enjoy this one," Bobrovsky said. "It was a tough game. We know Washington has a good team. It wasn't easy. We defended well. I thought we played a strong game."
Each of the Blue Jackets' two goals was scored on a power play. Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had been a healthy scratch in the previous game, made the most of his opportunity and struck first in the opening period after taking a between-the-legs pass from teammate Nick Foligno and finding an open net.
Bjorkstrand, who led the Blue Jackets with five shots on goal, was only in the lineup because Cam Atkinson was out with an illness. Atkinson might return against the Rangers.
"I needed to play some good hockey and it felt good," Bjorkstrand said. "It was nice to get a goal.
"I won some battles and I played hard. The line carried some great chances. I felt good and the battles were good for me. Overall, I was happy with it."
Anthony Duclair happily delivered what proved to be the winning goal at 5:32 of the third period when he chipped the puck past Holtby from the left side of the net.
As a result of a second consecutive win, the Blue Jackets moved atop the Metropolitan Division standings with 19 points.
The Rangers were on a roll before stumbling in Detroit, giving up the winning goal with 5.1 seconds left in overtime after squandering a 2-0 lead.
"We cheated the game with a 2-0 lead, and you see the result," Rangers coach David Quinn said, according to the team's website. "I would have thought we would have learned that lesson now, but we obviously haven't. You can't stop playing in this league."
New York's two goals came on power plays in the second period.
"This one hurts because we had complete control of this game for so long," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "We know we should have come out of this one with two points, and now we have to be happy just to get one."
Chris Kreider leads the Rangers with seven goals this season and Mika Zibanejad has a team-best eight assists and 14 points.
"We played with confidence for two periods and then we let them right back into the game," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We stopped playing with confidence and started throwing the puck away, and you can't do that in the other team's rink. We needed to stay aggressive."