The New York Rangers’ winning streak already made for a congested race for the second and third spots in the Metropolitan Division. The picture’s even more muddled after Monday.
Antti Raanta played another great game and the Rangers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 tonight, giving New York an impressive six-game winning streak.
It also makes for a virtual tie between the Blue Jackets, Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, with games in hand being among the factors separating three teams locked at 75 standings points:
2. Penguins – 75 points in 54 games (34 wins, 32 ROW)
3. Blue Jackets – 75 points in 55 games (35 wins, 33 ROW)
Rangers – 75 points in 56 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)
Interestingly, the Rangers and Blue Jackets both get two more games against the Penguins this season … and one more contest versus each other.
Blue Jackets’ remaining games against Penguins:
Feb. 17 in Columbus
April 4 in Pittsburgh
Rangers’ remaining games against Penguins:
March 31 at MSG
April 9 at MSG
Rangers vs. Blue Jackets:
Feb. 26 in Columbus
So, yeah, there are some games in hand differences and other tiebreaker factors, both all three teams seem like they have a real chance at finishing on top in this three-horse race. (Don’t expect any of them to catch the first-place Washington Capitals, though.)
Circling back to Monday’s game, Brandon Dubinsky scored the only goal of the first period. Dan Girardi collected the only tally of the middle frame, and it was a rarity: a shorthanded goal for the occasionally derided defenseman.
Kevin Hayes made it 2-1 with a semi-breakaway, Nick Foligno tied things up with about eight minutes left in the third and then Jimmy Vesey beat Sergei Bobrovsky with a nifty move and from an unusual angle to score the eventual game-winner for the Rangers.
Both teams failed on their power plays (Rangers going 0-for-5; Blue Jackets went 0-for-4), but with that shorthanded goal in mind, Columbus might face some regrets about special teams in particular.
Overall, it was a very close game, which is fitting enough since the playoff races are so close between these marvelous Metro teams.