The Columbus Blue Jackets knew entering Friday night’s game that they’d make the postseason with two points against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but in the end it was the CBJ who emerged victorious in the 3-2 shootout win.
The Jackets, who had a five-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins in Columbus, were in need of a bounce-back performance Friday in New York. With just two games remaining heading into the contest and the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference within reach, the two players who many expected to be dealt at the trade deadline were the ones who stepped up and delivered.
Despite outshooting the Rangers 15-6 through the first period and 26-15 through the second, the Jackets found themselves down 1-0 heading into the final 20 minutes.
It wasn’t until the 2:25 mark of the third period when Ryan Dzingel finally solved New York goalie Alexandar Georgiev to tie the game up at one.
Just minutes after Sergei Bobrovsky made one of his best stops of the year, Artemi Panarin found some open ice and sniped the puck past Georgiev to put the Jackets up 2-1 with 5:33 left.
With a playoff spot on the line and the opposing goaltender on the bench, the Blue Jackets had a couple failed chances at an empty net before the Rangers, with seven seconds left in regulation, found the back of the net to force overtime.
Despite allowing the late goal, Bobrovsky made several key saves throughout the game to keep the Jackets’ hopes alive at MSG on Friday night.
Head coach John Tortorella commented on his goaltender’s play, saying:
He has found his game for quite a while here now…Goaltending is a very important part of winning in this league, and Bob was a huge part of it tonight.
After OT came and went, the Bob-and-Bread show continued in the shootout. Artemi Panarin got a shot past Georgiev as the second shooter for the CBJ, and Bobrovsky stopped all three attempts he faced to secure the 3-2 victory.
Following the game, captain Nick Foligno had this to say about Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin:
Bob was unbelievable tonight and then Bread scored some huge ones for us.
After 81 games full of ups and downs, the Blue Jackets found a way to get the job done once again to clinch spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All that’s left to decide now is who their first-round opponent will be, and that’ll be decided Saturday night in Ottawa.
Foligno, talking about the attitude of the team now that they’ve clinched, had this to say:
We’re not done. We’re not done at all. I think we’re a team that feels really confident now that we’ve gotten in.