Saturday night in Columbus the Rangers sought to follow up their season-opening win in St. Louis two nights prior with another road victory before heading back to New York for their home opener at Madison Square Garden Sunday evening, but it was not to be. The Rangers had a slow start, played catch up all night, and eventually dropped a 5-2 decision to the Blue Jackets.
Nineteen year-old rookie Anthony Duclair earned his first two National Hockey League points, assisting on Lee Stempniak's first goal as a Ranger in the second period and Rick Nash's third of the season late in the third period.
With New York trailing 2-0 at the time, Stempniak and Duclair played give-and-go along the right-wing wall, with the skilled youngster saucering a perfect pass to his veteran linemate and Stempniak zipping a shot past Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky 5:43 into the middle stanza.
Less than three minutes later Duclair nearly scored his first NHL goal. Alone on left wing with eight minutes gone by in the second Duclair fired a shot past Bobrovsky, but the puck hit the cross bar and bounced out.
Shortly after Duclair hit iron Cam Atkinson dove on his stomach to tap a bouncing puck past Rangers goalie Cam Talbot 9:49 into the second period to restore the home team's two-goal lead.
Duclair later assisted on Nash's goal at 14:19 of the third, which brought New York to within 4-2. The goal by the former face of the Blue Jackets franchise drew loud boos, but wasn't enough to buoy the visitors into a late rally.
Making his first start of the young season Talbot stopped 19 of 23 shots Saturday. He was beaten on the third shot he faced, and allowed two goals on the first six shots Columbus put on goal as the Rangers fell into an early 2-0 hole.
Former Blueshirt Artem Anisimov ripped a long left wing shot past Talbot just 6:24 into the game to open the scoring; and Nick Foligno potted the rebound of his own shot at 17:33 of the first on some sloppy defensive zone coverage by the Rangers. Columbus center Jack Skille fired a right-wing shot off the post earlier or else the damage could have been even worse in the first period for the visitors.
There was plenty of chippiness and angry exchanges throughout the game. Stempniak was penalized for charging Anisimov by the Rangers' bench in the first period and then was on the receiving end of a thunderous, post-whistle hit from Scott Hartnell later in the opening twenty minutes. Chris Kreider also received an instigator penalty after initiating a fight with Skille with one minute to go in the second period, a retaliation for Skille's unpenalized dumping of Mats Zuccarello at center ice. Tanner Glass also stood up for a teammate when Dominic Moore was sent reeling into the boards on another unpenalized second-period hit.
Columbus rookie Marko Dano scored his first NHL goal at 13:47 of the third and Atkinson iced things for the Blue Jackets with an empty net goal at 18:39.
The win lifted the Blue Jackets to 2-0-0 to start the season, while the Rangers earned a split on the road heading into Sunday's contest at The Garden against the Toronto Maple Leafs.