The Rangers got an up-close-and-personal look at their potential future — and this does not refer to Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Lindgren, Brett Howden, Tony DeAngelo or any of the Baby Blueshirts on the Garden ice for Friday’s home finale against the Blue Jackets.
Rather, this is a reference to impending free agent Artemi Panarin, the Columbus winger who seemingly had the puck on his stick for all of his 22:41, scoring once in regulation and getting the lone goal in the shootout that boosted his team to a playoff-clinching 3-2 victory.
It’s his team now, but “The Breadman’’ will be on someone else’s team on July 1. The Rangers will be in there pitching to sign the 27-year-old, who is expected to command a deal of at least $77 million over seven years. That, though is a few months away.
This one was decided in the skills competition after the Rangers tied it at 19:53 on Buchnevich’s goal from the left corner, when his fling banked in off Sergei Bobrovsky’s pads. It marked the first time this season the Rangers had tied a game at the Garden after pulling their netminder for an extra attacker.
“It’s nice to have that final moment before the season ends,” said coach David Quinn, whose team’s loser point eliminates the possibility of falling as low/high as fourth in the pre-lottery draft slot.
“It would have been nice to win in overtime or the shootout, but it’s nice for our guys at least to have that last feeling at the last home game and feel the emotion of our crowd and the way it could be if we have the success we certainly strive to have.”
The Rangers competed well against a Blue Jackets team that entered needing one victory over their final two games to clinch a third straight tournament berth. Alex Georgiev was stout in the Rangers net as Columbus dominated the first period before the Blueshirts were able to kick it into gear and create a 50-50 contest.
“Trying to ruin their season was obviously a big motivation,” said Mika Zibanejad, who was outstanding. “I have a couple of buddies on the other side and tried to ruin it. Just couldn’t get it done, so I wish them good luck in the playoffs.”
Georgiev, who faced 41 shots, extended his shutout streak to 147:23 and his consecutive saves streak to 120:00 before Ryan Dzingel scored off an odd-man rush at 2:55 of the third period to negate Chris Kreider’s goal at 1:47 of the second that had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Panarin then scored a dandy from the slot at 14:27 for the lead that held up until Buchnevich’s late goal.
“We’ve been on [Buchnevich] about shooting pucks,” said Quinn, who would never have to say the same of Panarin, if he should ever coach him. “He’s shot more and his overall game has improved. That comes from maturity, too.”
Columbus coach John Tortorella, who coached the Rangers for four-plus years under Glen Sather, sought out and hugged his former general manager a day after the announcement that Sather is stepping down from his role as club president.
Ryan Lindgren, who played three games in December and was recalled on Thursday, was in the lineup on the blue line while bumping John Gilmour into street clothes. … Filip Chytil was sidelined for the second consecutive game with an upper-body injury that is also expected to keep the 19-year-old out of Saturday’s season finale in Pittsburgh.
Kreider’s goal was his 28th, matching the career-high he established in 2016-17. … Zibanejad, Kevin Shattenkirk and Tony DeAngelo were stymied by Bobrovsky in the shootout. … Zibanejad was voted team MVP by the media while Jesper Fast won the Players’ Player Award as voted by his teammates for the fourth straight season.