COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With a shuffled defense in the first game of Dan Boyle's absence, Cam Talbot unsteady in goal and facing a gritty team willing to throw the body in their home opener, the Rangers lost to the Blue Jackets, 5-2, Saturday night.
In a game in which tempers flared regularly at Nationwide Arena, the Rangers (1-1) never led, as the Blue Jackets drove to the net and took advantage of the Rangers' defensemen, who were a step behind and scrambling for most of the night.
Although the shots were 10-7 in favor of the Rangers after the first period, they trailed 2-0, and that didn't include Jack Skille's shot that beat Talbot and clanged the right post.
Coming out of the gate, the Rangers iced the puck four times in 2:44 and Carl Hagelin went off for elbowing at 3:42. The Rangers, who were 5-for-5 on the penalty-kill against the Blues on Thursday, denied the Jackets, but at 6:24, Artem Anisimov's crackling one-timer zipped past Talbot for a 1-0 lead. It was the second goal of the season for the former Ranger.
When Michael Chaput was sent off for hooking at 9:17, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh had chances on a power play with Martin St. Louis at the point instead of Boyle (broken hand), but were denied by Sergei Bobrovsky (24 saves).
At 12:36, the nastiness began. Lee Stempniak, who scored his first goal as a Ranger, charged and leveled Anisimov near the benches, and a scrum ensued. After Stempniak was dragged down by Jack Johnson at the net on a rush coming out of the penalty box and began to stand up behind the net after the whistle, Scott Hartnell knocked him down, an obvious response to the Anisimov play, but wasn't given a penalty.
At 17:33, the Jackets made it 2-0 when Nick Foligno followed up his own shot that was stopped by J.T. Miller's skate in front. Foligno dived head first and swiped the puck past Talbot (19 saves).
Stempniak's goal on a give-and-go from Anthony Duclair near the right corner at 5:43 of the second trimmed the lead to 2-1. It was Duclair's first NHL point. About halfway through the period, Duclair (two assists) almost tied the score. His wrister from the top of the left circle hit the crossbar.
But Cam Atkinson, in a dive toward the crease at the left post, restored the two-goal lead, poking Foligno's pass across the goal line at 9:49 of the second. It was only the 10th shot for Columbus.
With 7:24 left in the period, right after a Jackets shot slid through the crease and off the iron, Tanner Glass went off for roughing Dalton Prout, who had crunched Dominic Moore, as the bad blood continued.
Bobrovsky made the save of the game with 3:49 left, diving to his right to rob St. Louis after a two-on-one pass from Rick Nash. That save kept the score at 3-1.
Tempers flared again with a minute left, when Skille appeared to blindside Zuccarello in midice, and Chris Kreider immediately retailiated against Skille. Kreider received two minutes for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct; Skille got five for fighting, but nothing on the hit as Rangers coach Alain Vigneault screamed at the referees.
Late in the third, Marko Dano upped the lead to 4-1 with his first NHL goal, and Nash scored his third of the season, on a pass from Duclair, with 5:41 left. Vigneault pulled Talbot for an extra attacker with more than two minutes to go, but Atkinson scored into an empty net with 1:21 left in regulation.