Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets face off with the New York Rangers on Thursday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK -- These are enjoyable times for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are starting to get on a roll and getting outstanding goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Blue Jackets attempt to get their season-high fifth straight victory and Bobrovsky likely will be in nets Thursday night when they visit the New York Rangers.
Columbus is trying to get its fourth winning streak of at least five games since the start of the 2016-17 season. The Blue Jackets also are 6-2-1 in their last nine games since a 9-6 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Dec. 4.
Bobrovsky is 4-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage during Columbus' winning streak. He is facing an average of 33.5 shots per game and his performances helped the Blue Jackets win three straight one-goal games before Sunday's 3-0 win at New Jersey when Bobrovsky made 39 saves, his second-highest total of the season.
His recent performances helped him get named as the NHL's first star Monday. Since allowing eight goals to Calgary, Bobrovsky is 6-1 with a 1.77 GAA and .942 save percentage.
"There are ups and downs," Bobrovsky said. "It's a long season. You never know what's going to happen, so you just play by the moment and do your things."
While Bobrovsky was stopping 19 shots in the third period, his teammates helped by scoring twice in the opening 5:31 and adding a second-period tally. Cam Atkinson scored the first goal, giving him 17 goals in the last 20 games while Artemi Panarin scored an unassisted tally, marking the third time he scored in consecutive games this season.
"It's always good to get the first one, especially in the away barn," Atkinson said. "We knew we'd see their best and to feel good right away, it's good for us. We can enjoy this and get a little bit of a rest here and be ready for the Rangers."
Besides their overall streak, the Blue Jackets will be attempting to get a fourth straight road win and improve on their 7-4-1 record against Metropolitan Division opponents.
One of New York's wins during a 10-3-1 surge from Oct. 23-Nov. 21 was a 5-4 shootout win in Columbus on Nov. 10 when Jimmy Vesey scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation and scored the winner in the fifth round of the shootout against Joonas Korpisalo.
The last game of New York's hot streak was a 5-0 home win over the New York Islanders on Nov. 21. Two days later, they were handed a 4-0 loss in Philadelphia that started their 3-6-4 slide.
During the skid, the Rangers have lost four one-goal games and are 2-2-4 at home. They also have been outshot on nine occasions and allowed at least 40 shots on goal four times.
In their last game, the Rangers did not allow 40 shots or get outshot but wound up with a 3-2 shootout loss at home to Philadelphia on Sunday. Chris Kreider scored in the first period, Boo Nieves tallied in the second but Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, and Kevin Hays were unable to score in the shootout against Michal Neuvirth.
"I took a look this morning at the standings, and obviously the separation is getting bigger," New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "We have to start winning here if you want to be part of that race. Take this break and regroup and realize how desperate we need to be coming back."
While the Rangers are 13-8-5 in games by decided by two goals or fewer, they also have faltered against some of the Eastern Conference's top teams. They took a 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Dec. 10 after scoring the first two goals, allowed four goals in the second period at Toronto on Saturday and are 0-1-1 against the Washington Capitals.
"In the last few weeks here, it's been hard to get the wins," Lundqvist said. "So when we get back, we really have to dig deep."
While wins are difficult for the Rangers after last month's hot streak, getting points is not for Hayes.
Hayes is on a career-high seven-game point streak that is also the longest by a Ranger this season. During his streak, Hayes has accumulated five goals and eight assists and in his last 24 games, he has eight goals and 19 assists.
The Rangers are 11-6 in the last 17 meetings against Columbus while 11 of the last 12 encounters with the Blue Jackets have been decided by two goals or fewer.