Mere hours after it was announced Alain Vigneault signed a contract extension, he and his New York Rangers had a good chance to prove it was well deserved.
Save for a four goal flurry in the final stage, they did anything but that on Tuesday night.
The Rangers got off to a brutal start in their post All-Star slate, falling behind 6-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets before a quartet of goals in the third period made the game at least look somewhat respectable in a 6-4 final.
With the loss, the Rangers (31-18-1) sealed their first losing month of the season, ending January with a 5-6-0 mark. Things actually got off to a promising start for the Rangers, who enjoyed an early power play thanks to a penalty by former comrade Brandon Dubinsky. Power play struggles continued, but the Rangers peppered five shots on inexperienced Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo, making his third start of the season.
Alas, it was the more experienced netminder done in by Columbus’s awaited first shot of the game.
Seth Jones, fresh off an All-Star appearance in Los Angeles over the weekend, scored his eighth of the season past Henrik Lundqvist with just under four minutes gone by, giving the Rangers a 1-0 deficit to work with at the end of the first period. Numerous opportunities had arisen, so panic was at a premium at intermission.
Then came the second period.
A pair of Columbus goals, both scored during 4-on-4 play, ended the night for Lundqvist, and the Rangers were down 3-0. Brandon Saad scored for the second consecutive game just 66 seconds into the period before Alexander Wennberg delivered the knockout blow to Lundqvist, who gave way to Antti Raanta, returning to the lineup after an injury absence. Partaking in his first game since January 14, Raanta, like Lundqvist, fell victim to suspect New York defense, as Jones put in his second of the game before Wennberg assisted on Nick Foglino’s goal late in the second. The middle frame ended with the Rangers mercilessly booed off the ice by the Madison Square Garden faithful.
The boos didn’t subside in the early portions of the final act, as Matt Calvert, hero of the team’s first meeting in the fall at Nationwide Arena, scored less than two minutes in for the touchdown, a 6-0 Blue Jackets (33-12-4) lead. The Rangers finally broke through Korpisalo, as Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, and Chris Kreider each scored within 3:21 of game time, but they were unable to press further. Kevin Klein did score his first of the year with an extra attacker on the ice to complete the final tally.
Now 1-2-0 against them this season, the Rangers will face off with the Jackets twice more this season, wrapping their season series in the new month.
The Rangers will look to regroup on Thursday, when they take on the Buffalo Sabres (7:00, MSG).