On the same day 40 cars will partake in the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, FL, chasing and trying to outrace each other toward a prestigious championship, the New York Rangers will try to not only continue to outpace their rivals in the chase for the Eastern Conference playoffs, but also try to chase down some rivals ahead of them.
They’ll return home on Sunday late afternoon for a tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets, seeking to increase their cushion in the Eastern playoff hunt, while chasing down a pair of teams ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division race (5:00, MSG).
The Rangers (40-19-2) are completing the second half of a back-to-back set against Metropolitan foes, winning part one in overtime on Saturday night over the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Chris Kreider and Oscar Lindberg scored goals to put the Rangers up 2-0, but they had to pull off a comeback when New Jersey put in three unanswered goals. Adam Clendening would tie it in the late stages before Mika Zibanejad scored just 76 seconds into the overtime period to give the Rangers the extra point. The win allowed the Rangers to remain one point ahead of the Blue Jackets for the final automatic Metro playoff spot, though Columbus has two games in hand. They’re currently chasing Washington and Pittsburgh, whom they trail by seven and two points respectively.
The Blue Jackets (38-16-5) also are partaking in a back-to-back set against Metro foes, winning their first half in blowout fashion, a 7-0 win over the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena. Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno had a pair of goals each, while Joonas Korpisalo had 24 saves in his first career NHL history.
This will be the deciding game in the season series between the Rangers nad Blue Jackets this season, the pair having split the first four thus far. The Rangers won the last meeting in the final seasonal match in Columbus, by a 3-2 count on February 13. The Rangers came from behind to win, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Dan Girardi and Kevin Hayes, but Foligno was able to tie it. However, Jimmy Vesey put in the game winner with just over six minutes remaining, sending the Rangers into a victorious frenzy.
With both team’s backups playing yesterday, the goaltending matchup will be one to watch, as Henrik Lundqvist will square off against Sergei Bobrovsky in a battle of former Vezina winners.