Rangers look for fourth straight win vs. Blue Jackets
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October was one disappointment after another for the New York Rangers, who went 4-7-2 during the season's first month and spent more time closer to last place than a playoff spot.
But as the Rangers prepare to host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, they are showing signs of life and will be in pursuit of their fourth straight victory.
The Rangers' three wins aren't all that impressive -- they had to rally at home to beat the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, then won two games in Florida in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers -- but they outshot all three opponents and are 7-for-7 on the penalty kill, marking the first time this season they haven't allowed a power-play goal in three straight games.
"We're on our way," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told the New York Daily News. "We don't want to sit back and think we're in the clear here. We have to make sure that we're building. We played some good teams here on the road and played some great games, but we just have to keep this effort consistent and we'll start getting a lot of wins."
The Rangers (6-7-2) have a chance to get to the NHL's version of .500 for the first time this season with a win Monday, and much of this resurgence has to do with Shattenkirk, the high-priced free agent who joined the team in the offseason. The defenseman has two goals and four points in his past three games, and, despite receiving criticism in the early going, is on pace for 71 points in 82 games.
The Panthers had 34 shots Saturday and the Lightning had 28 on Thursday, so while the Rangers aren't locking down teams, they are making strides toward getting better defensively.
"Step by step, we're getting there," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist told the New York Daily News. "It's a process every year to get everybody on the same page of what we need to do as a group and personally. You need a lot from everyone all over the ice, but especially in our own end. And I think slowly we're getting to a place where everyone knows how much we need from everyone in our own end and the focus that we need. When we have that, we're a better team, we're a faster team, we create more."
Consistency hasn't been an issue for the Blue Jackets (9-4-1), who are 4-1-1 in their past six games. They squeezed a point out of a 5-4 shootout loss in Tampa on Saturday night after entering the third period down two goals.
The Blue Jackets have been porous defensively of late, having allowed 70 shots over their past two games. Teams have put at least 30 shots on net against the Blue Jackets in each of the past seven games. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky allowed four goals Saturday but it could have been worse.
"Bob, four goals, could have been a lot more," Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky said Saturday. "He made some huge saves. I don't know how many breakaways he stopped -- two or three, for sure. We got some things to clean up. I'm sure (coach John Tortorella) will let us know and have us prepared for Monday."
It's rare for a team to gain confidence from a loss, but rallying on the road against the team with the best record in the NHL could serve as a springboard for the Blue Jackets when they take the ice at MSG.
"It's really good," Blue Jackets forward Markus Hannikainen said. "But I think we can still do better. We can still play better and win."
Updated November 5, 2017