Rangers Loss in Columbus Shows Early Growing Pains

COLUMBUS, OHIO - OCTOBER 14: Justin Danforth #17 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Kent Johnson #91 after beating Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers for a goal during the third period of the game at Nationwide Arena on October 14, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated New York 5-3. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - OCTOBER 14: Justin Danforth #17 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Kent Johnson #91 after beating Igor Shesterkin #31 of the New York Rangers for a goal during the third period of the game at Nationwide Arena on October 14, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated New York 5-3. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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Read about the Rangers’ battle In Columbus  – a game filled with growing pains and unexpected twists.

The New York Rangers or any team won’t win them all. If you thought so, Saturday night served a dose of reality. After a dominant season-opening 5-1 win in Buffalo on Thursday, the favored Blueshirts fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 at Nationwide Arena.

It’s a reminder that the team has some work ahead, especially when getting used to Peter Laviolette’s system. That’s part of the process. We knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing this early in the season.

“The first game, we liked our game a lot,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “Today, I thought you saw some things you didn’t like as much that we can clean up and focus on and continue to build our game. It’s still, I won’t say, new, but we’re still learning this a little bit and getting a feel for it. You’re going to get in different scenarios and situations, and we’ll get more and more comfortable as we go.”

Before the puck dropped, the Rangers had some injury news – defenseman Ryan Lindgren wouldn’t be playing due to an upper-body injury. He took a shot to the hand in Buffalo and skated on Saturday morning. The Blueshirts, playing it safe, decided to sit him out since it was just the second game of the season. “He’s upper-body, day-day”, Laviolette said. “He’ll be reevaluated when we go back home” (Sunday).

In Lindgren’s place, Zac Jones joined the lineup, pairing up with Braden Schneider. Erik Gustafson, on the other hand, partnered with Adam Fox. It looked good on paper, but the results left much to be desired.

Early Excitement and Missed Opportunities:

The game kicked off with some good action from the fourth line. Jimmy Vesey and Tyler Pitlick connected, setting up a play where Adam Fox sent it to Erik Gustafsson. He tried to make a pass to a charging Barclay Goodrow, but the puck took a funny bounce off a Blue Jackets player’s skate and found the net, making it 1-0 for the Rangers just 50 seconds in. It was a lucky start for the Blueshirts and Gustafsson’s first with his new team.

A little later, New York had a great breakout from their defensive zone, with Artemi Panarin feeding the puck to Alexis Lafreniere. Lafreniere then fed Gustafson, who found Filip Chytil for a 2-0 lead. However, Columbus challenged the play, and after a review, it turned out that Lafreniere’s skate was offside, so the goal was called back.

The Jackets seized the momentum and managed to tie the game. Schneider attempted to pass the puck to Jones, but it bounced over Jones’s stick and landed with Kirill Marchenko. He sent it to the net, where captain Boone Jenner was right there for the rebound, leveling the score.

With 9:07 left in the period, Zibanejad swatted down an Erik Gudbranson clearing attempt and appeared to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead by scoring on Elvis Merzlikins. However, another offside review dashed their hopes of taking the lead. Moments later, Igor Shesterkin made a remarkable save on a shot from Patrik Laine, but the puck slipped past him and inched toward the goal line.

Trouba dived to make an incredible stop, seemingly preventing the puck from crossing the line. The goal was initially awarded, but after a review, it was clear that it didn’t count, keeping the score tied at 1-1. It was the third potential goal of the period to be overturned.

Yet, just before the first period ended, Jenner netted his second of the night, redirecting a shot from Johnny Gaudreau on a power play, putting Columbus ahead 2-1. The period had its ups and downs, but Columbus managed to sneak in front.