It was not that long ago when the John Tortorella Marching and Chowder Society was touting his streaking Blue Jackets as a Stanley Cup Contender.
That was before Tort’s team hit a wall — in hockey, commonly called a “Losing Streak” — and ever since, the Jackets have been bluer than a brand new blue serge suit.
The Rangers offered no solace to their former coach on Monday night at Nationwide Arena silencing — as much as possible — Columbus’ big guns, while connecting on some solid New York shells of their own. Kevin Hayes, in particular, with a sweetheart steal-and-rush.
In the end, the Blueshirts jetted home secure in the knowledge that the elite feelings of early Winter have returned to the club psyche. A thrilling 3-2 triumph will do that, especially when it’s the sixth win in a row.
Steve Valiquette and Ron Duguay look at how the Blueshirts scored their goals in the 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
As always, the cast of heroes alternates from goal to defense to attack, and this time it was pinch-goalie Antti Raanta who stripped the Blue Jackets while low-scoring Dan Girardi potted a rare (for him) shorthander and freshman Jimmy Vesey was the best forward on the ice.
“Raanta’s performance was spectacular,” said MSG Networks analyst Sam Rosen.
True enough, especially for a puck-stopper who could have pleaded rusty pads after being out of full-time action for so long.
Antti Raanta showed no signs of rust, making 30 saves in his first full game since December 29th as the Rangers beat Columbus 3-2.
OVERVIEW: With the Trade Deadline straight ahead, coach Alain Vigneault and staff will have their hands full deciding on whether a deal should be made. A.V. has a well-knit club overflowing with talent. The latest victory should have the general staff thinking the bromide, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This sixth straight victory seconds the motion.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- RAH-RAH RAANTA: With absolutely no rust around his new NHL measurement goalie pants, Antti, the Fine Finn, gave his colleague Henrik Lundqvist a rest and stopped the Blue Jackets when it most counted. As an added fillip to explain his ability, let’s not forget that this was his first full game since December. He totaled 30 saves.
- V FOR VESEY: There have been suggestions that the marathon NHL season had put the brakes on Jimmy Vesey, the Rangers impressive rookie. Not so, Vesey’s lightning rush down the right wing to pull a backhand-forehand beauty was a highlight bit for the month at least.
- HEY-HEY HAYES: En route to a career year, Kevin Hayes’ overall effort signals that his game is reaching new heights in confidence. He had a goal and an assist. On his score, he looked awfully smart to beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
Kevin Hayes forces a turnover in the neutral zone and then scores on a breakaway to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead over the Blue Jackets.
- DAUNTLESS DAN: When a warrior like Dan Girardi scores only the second shorthanded goal of his career, it’s symbolic that he’s enjoying a comeback season. Dan’s goal helped to put the Blueshirts back in a winning frame of mind.
TURNING POINT: Rookie Jimmy Vesey’s third-period goal put the finis mark on the contest for the Blueshirts. Right behind was Dan Girardi’s shorthander at the start of the second frame. “Jimmy was the most energetic of all the Rangers,” said MSG Networks analyst Dave Maloney.
BEST SAVE: In the final minute — with the Columbus net empty and the Blue Jackets siege in full blast — Raanta sealed his net with a rapid-fire series of saves. Oh, yeah, another beaut came on a one-on-one when he foiled the Blue Jackets best shooter, Cam Atkinson.
BEST GOAL: Jimmy Vesey appeared to have little to no room to deliver a shot on goal while speeding down the right side toward the right corner. But somehow, his slight of speed and sleight of hand worked like perfectly meshed gears and he beat the stunned Bobrovsky.
Jimmy Vesey drives hard and puts the puck over Sergei Bobrovsky's blocker for the eventual game-winning goal.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- DAN GIRARDI: “This was a lot like a playoff game. What we’re doing right along is building; doing a lot of things right.”
- MSG NETWORKS ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “The Rangers gutted the game out and Raanta was good. They beat a tough opponent on the Blue Jackets ice.”
- ANTTI RAANTA: “It was a long time since I started a game, so I wanted to get that good feeling right away. All in all, I felt really good. But their push in the last minute felt like forever. The best thing was the way my guys took their sticks away.”
- KEVIN HAYES: “Columbus has a tight defensive team. Getting two points from them was a good thing.”
- ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “There wasn’t a lot of space, time and lanes out there but we did what we had to do to get the two points. Some of the guys were not having their best night but the sign of a good team is when it wins when not playing all that well.”
NEXT GAME: Rangers vs. Islanders on Thursday at Barclays Center, 7 p.m. TV: MSG.
BOTTOM LINE: Having climbed closer to a playoff berth under interim coach Doug Weight, the Islanders should give the Rangers a robust effort. It could be the best hockey game of the Metropolitan Area so far this season.
One thing is certain; this Rangers team now looks invincible on the road as well as at home.