The New York Rangers are on their second three-game winning streak of the season, and well aware of its timing.
The Rangers attempt to complete an unbeaten three-game road trip and get their season-high fourth straight win Friday night when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.
New York is a season-high six games over .500 with five games to go before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The Rangers are 11th in the Eastern Conference, and their 62 points are nine points behind Columbus and Philadelphia, who are tied with 71 points for the final playoff spot entering Friday.
“We’re aware of our situation,” New York’s Ryan Strome told reporters. “It’s 10 days to the trade deadline as of tomorrow, and obviously, the playoffs looming and where we are in the standings — and we’re playing a team we’re chasing tomorrow, so it’s a big game for us.”
The Rangers are also five in back of ninth-place Carolina, which hosts New Jersey on Friday, and one ahead of Montreal, which travels to Pittsburgh.
New York’s previous three-game winning streak ran from Nov. 23-27. The current streak started with consecutive 4-1 wins at Los Angeles and at home against Winnipeg, and then on Thursday, the Rangers overcame a two-goal deficit and claimed a 4-3 shootout victory in Minnesota.
Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin played significant roles in the Rangers also winning for the fourth time in five games and improving to 10-5 in their last 15 games. Zibanejad and Panarin both scored in the shootout after scoring in regulation.
Zibanejad scored the game-tying goal and has six goals in his last eight contests. Panarin scored in the first period, assisted on Zibanejad’s goal and has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in his last 14 contests.
Besides occupying one of the wild-card spots, the Blue Jackets are in the mix for second or third place in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus is one point behind the New York Islanders for third and three behind second-place Pittsburgh.
The Blue Jackets are 9-1-3 in their last 13 games in a run that began Jan. 11, and they’re coming off consecutive overtime losses, most recently a 4-3 defeat in Buffalo on Thursday.
The Blue Jackets blew a 2-0 lead but gained a point when Markus Nutivaara scored the tying goal with 1:13 left.
“I thought we stopped putting (our foot) on the gas there,” Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe said. “I thought we sat back a little bit too much and gave them a little space and didn’t control pucks the way we wanted to. Big goal at the end to tie it up, but unfortunately it’s a tough loss.”
Despite getting two points from a pair of overtime losses, Columbus is 0-1-2 in its last three, its longest skid since getting outscored 13-5 in a four-game span Nov. 30-Dec. 7.
The Blue Jackets were without two key contributors as defenseman Sean Jones will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury while Cam Atkinson is out two to three weeks due to a lower-body injury.
The teams have played a pair of one-goal games, with the road team winning both in regulation. Panarin scored the game-winner on Dec. 5, while Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice on Jan. 19, including the game-winning goal with 27 seconds left.
–Field Level Media