NEW YORK (AP) — Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky have the surging Columbus Blue Jackets in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Panarin had three goals and an assist, Bobrovsky made 29 saves and the Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to nine games with a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
“Obviously, you want to limit the penalties in the third period and the stretch run, but Bob (Bobrovsky) played great and saved us, and Bread (Panarin) was able to seal the deal,” Columbus defenseman Ian Cole said.
The Blue Jackets are tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins at 87 points. Both teams trail Washington by four.
It is Columbus’ longest winning streak since its 16-game run last season from Nov. 29, 2016, to Jan. 3, 2017.
It was Panarin’s second career hat trick and first with the Blue Jackets. Coincidentally, his other hat trick also came against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 17, 2016, with Chicago.
This season, Panarin has 22 points in the past 16 games (10 goals, 12 assists).
“We played such a good game until we ended up giving up back-to-back power plays and that kind of changes the landscape of the game,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
“I guess he scored three, and you know how those guys are — he has that net staring at him with that goalie pulled and he wants to get back out there, and I’m glad it happened for him.”
Markus Nutivaara and Alexander Wennberg also scored for the Blue Jackets.
Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad scored power-play goals and Kevin Hayes had a short-handed goal for the Rangers.
Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves in his first start since March 10 against Florida. Lundqvist was briefly shaken up when Matt Calvert upended him and knocked his helmet off with five minutes remaining.
“I was just more surprised. I thought both of them saw me, but I guess not,” Lundqvist said. “It hurt pretty much everywhere — my foot, my back, my neck. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. It happens.”
With Columbus leading 3-2 in the third period, Cam Atkinson drove toward the net and Lundqvist made the initial save, but Panarin poked the puck free and in for his 24th goal at 11:19.
“I was mad at Cam that he’s shooting for once,” Panarin joked through a translator. “And then I’m grateful the referee probably didn’t see the moment he was behind the goalie and that helped us.”
Kreider scored his 14th with 1:52 remaining to get the Rangers to 4-3.
Panarin added an empty-netter for the hat trick and his 25th of the season.
Earlier, Panarin made it 2-0 in the second. Cole, acquired at the trade deadline, sent a pass to Panarin, who wristed it past Lundqvist at 9:28.
“He’s special,” Cole said of Panarin. “He’s certainly a player you look for. Anytime you see him with space, you want to give him the puck. It’s something that tends to work out well for us.”
Hayes then had three impressive scoring chances in the second half of the second period.
Bobrovsky stopped him on a short-handed breakaway with about nine minutes remaining. A few minutes later, with the Rangers again short-handed, Jesper Fast grabbed a deflected pass and sent Hayes in on another breakaway and this time he beat Bobrovsky to make it 2-1 with his 21st goal of the season at 13:44. Hayes also hit the post in the final minute of the second.
Nutivaara made it 3-1 in the third with his fifth of the season at 4:05. Panarin had the primary assist.
Zibanejad got the Rangers closer at 3-2 with his 25th goal of the season at 7:16. He has nine points (six goals, three assists) in a five-game point streak.
Thomas Vanek, another trade-deadline acquisition, helped the Blue Jackets open the scoring. He sent a backhand pass from behind the net to Wennberg in the slot and he wristed the puck past Lundqvist at 14:05 of the first period for his eighth goal.
Lundqvist briefly kept it a one-goal deficit when he stopped Vanek as the Blue Jackets came in on a 2-on-0 break less than four minutes into the second.
NOTES: Defenseman Seth Jones has missed the past two games and is day to day with an upper-body injury. … Former Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky was a healthy scratch for Columbus. … Zibanejad played in his 400th game. … The Rangers are 5-3-2 since the trade deadline.
Blue Jackets: Host the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Rangers: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
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