Maybe the Rangers Expeditionary Force that invaded Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Saturday night was in the mood for revenge against John Tortorella’s once-unbeatable horde.
Then again, maybe not. Right now, the reasons matter not but the result does as the New Yorkers enjoy their five-day league-imposed sabbatical.
Primary in this debatable discussion is that the Blueshirts dramatically established supremacy over the powerful Blue Jackets and on the latter’s home ice.
No small feat, this was accomplished with a blend of perseverance, tenacity, and grim determination.
The win, combined with an earlier emphatic victory over the Flyers in Philadelphia, was a perfect tonic now that Alain Vigneault’s stick handlers will have some time off before resuming play at home, Friday, against Toronto.
One could argue that the 5-4 defeat of Columbus comes at a bad time since the two-game win streak had provided the Seventh Avenue Skaters with that nebulous feeling of momentum.
On the other hand, the beauty part is that they need a respite and now have time to allow Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash, Matt Puempel and Pavel Buchnevich recovery days from injuries.
OVERVIEW: This was a dramatic comeback to the radical-50 with Super-Goal-Machine Michael Grabner looking more like the Blueshirts most valuable player if not a candidate for the National Hockey League’s Hart Trophy. In the end, John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets became victims of “The Dreaded Three-Goal Lead.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- RESILIENT RANGERS: By the numbers, the Blueshirts were looking like a beaten team but the fighting spirit prevailed against what only recently had been the NHL’s hottest team. This was a case of Comeback Kids Extraordinaire.
- ADAM’S RIBBING: The extraordinary consistency of G.M. Jeff Gorton’s acquisitions continues to amaze. This time almost-forgotten defenseman Adam Clendening delivered as the pinch-hitter for injured Marc Staal. With the Blueshirts trailing 4-2 in the third, Adam ribbed the Blue Jackets with a power play goal and — for an encore — then tied the game at four.
- THE GREAT GRABNER: We’ll soon have to re-make the Adjective Machine to find more glowing terms for Michael the Magnificent. He delivered a pair of red lights — upping his season total to 18 — including the winner which was produced when he went into his fifth gear to outspeed the Columbus defense.
- THE JOY OF WINNING: The Rangers 28 wins so far this season are tied for the second-most the team has earned through the first 42 games of one season in franchise history.
- AN OSCAR FOR LINDBERG: Another near-forgotten Ranger — Oscar Lindberg — tied a single game career-high with two points; a goal and an assist. Plus, he won nine of 14 face-offs. So, you can draw your own conclusion about Oscar’s value on draws.
- TOPPING TORTS: With this victory, Alain Vigneault earned his 172nd career win as the Blueshirts head coach. Therefore, he passed John Tortorella for sole possession of fourth place on the franchise all-time win list among head coaches.
- ALARM CLOCK ALARM: Whatever the cause, slow starts have become alarming in the Rangers camp. Perhaps some sort of new alarm clock should be rung to get the lads cooking with gas earlier in the game. Much earlier!
WHAT THEY SAID:
* REPORTER PATRICK MCCORMACK: “During the first period and parts of the second the Rangers looked like they were going into the Bye Week with a sour taste. But their big players made big plays to engineer the comeback. They gained two important points before the five-day break.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: NEXT GAME, NEXT FRIDAY VS. TORONTO AT THE GARDEN, 7 P.M. TV, MSG NETWORKS.
BOTTOM LINE: The Columbus challenge was as telling a test as the Rangers have faced this season. If nothing else, it underlined one particular point; this team is elite!