Jason Chimera and Rick Nash scored short-handed goals in the second period Saturday night to lift the lowly Blue Jackets to a 3-2 victory over the Rangers that put another crimp in New York’s fading playoff hopes.
Columbus, which entered as the NHL’s third-worst team (24-32-6), shook off an early 2-0 deficit and snapped its three-game losing streak by taking advantage of the Rangers when they were in position to take control of a crucial contest.
“We needed to put this team away and we didn’t do that,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said after his team fell to 4-6-2 in its last 12.
Anders Eriksson scored a rare goal late in the first period, and Chimera and Nash added goals minutes apart in the second to give the Blue Jackets their 10th road victory and first ever in Madison Square Garden (1-1-1-0).
Columbus finished 4-6 against the Eastern Conference and 1-4 versus the Atlantic.
Fredrik Norrena (16-14-3), on pace to be Columbus’ first goalie to finish over .500, made 40 saves – including 17 in the third period. He turned away the Rangers during a late power play and then blocked a hard, bouncing puck with under four minutes remaining.
“There’s a lot of first-timers in this building for us,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Freddy held us in there in the third period, which was good.”
The Blue Jackets had scored just four short-handed goals this season, and the Rangers had allowed a league-low two.
Blair Betts and Jaromir Jagr staked New York to its lead a little more than five minutes in, but the Rangers failed to gain any ground in the Eastern playoff race. They are in 12th place, six points below the post-season cutoff with only 20 games remaining.
“We knew they needed the points and we kind of want to play the spoiler,” Nash said. “They’re desperate and we knew they were going to come flying. It was just depending on if we could weather the storm.”
“It shows a lot to our team that we could stick around in one of the toughest buildings in the league, to steal two points.”
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 22 shots, but allowed more than two goals for the fourth time in 18 games.
The Rangers came out hard and showed no early hangover from their emotional, hard-hitting home-and-home series with New Jersey.
Betts and Jagr provided New York with a 2-0 lead just 5:11 in and before Columbus recorded a shot.
Betts scored his seventh goal during a fine shift from the Rangers’ rugged fourth line. Ryan Hollweg and fellow enforcer Colton Orr each earned their first assists of the season at 2:46.
Jagr, still hearing criticism for not taking part in the shootout Thursday in the loss to the Devils, heard plenty of cheers when he scored his 22nd goal 2:25 later. It was only Jagr’s fifth power-play tally after netting a team-record 24 last season.
“I felt confident even if I let in two goals,” Norrena said. “I was screened on that second one. The first one was just kind of a broken play.”
The shots were 6-0 and Norrena stood in his crease with slumped shoulders and took deep breaths as the Rangers celebrated.
“We stopped playing after the first period. I don’t know why,” Jagr said. “We had some chances but we didn’t score.”
Columbus, 2-7-1 in its previous 10 games, took over soon after, prompting the New York fans to boo the home team off the ice after the final two frames and when the three stars of the game were announced. Even a luxury box appearance by injured forward Brendan Shanahan didn’t produce enough of a spark.
The Blue Jackets, who entered with the third-fewest road victories in the league, started to chip away when Eriksson let a shot go from inside the blue line that caromed through traffic and got by Lundqvist with 1:24 left in the first period. It was the defenceman’s first goal in 60 games, dating to April 3, 2004.
Chimera and Nash then took advantage of New York’s power-play unit, which has connected for goals in 11 of 13 games. Chimera barrelled through New York’s defence and scored unassisted at 11:02. Nash gave the Jackets the lead 4:52 later.
“There was no letup on the bench,” Hitchcock said. “The first goal really lit us up and then we started to really play.”
Notes: It was Columbus’ first Garden visit since Dec. 3, 2002. … Rangers D Aaron Ward was a healthy scratch. … Columbus D Bryan Berard, out of favour with Hitchcock, also was benched. … Rangers forward Martin Straka left with an upper-body injury in the second period.