COLUMBUS — After consecutive shutout losses, the New York Rangers needed a lift.
They got it from their sterling goaltender — and with the return of an injured teammate.
Marc Staal and Chris Kreider scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves to lead the New York Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
Lundqvist dueled with Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky most of the night, trading great saves.
Despite getting only two shots on goal in the third period, the Rangers hung on.
“We did what we had to do,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “When we weren’t where we were supposed to be, our goaltender was.”
Lundqvist was pleased that his team pulled out of its offensive funk.
“When you get used to winning, losing is terrible,” he said. “You could see when we scored that first goal we relaxed a little bit, we started playing better, we had more speed.”
Derek Stepan, who was a game-time decision to play due to an upper-body injury, assisted on both second-period goals after missing the Rangers’ last game.
“We came out in the second period and did a lot of good things — things we had been doing earlier in the season,” he said. “When we execute the way we did in the second, we’re really a tough team to play.
The Rangers finally found some offense after a scoreless drought of 146:59.
Staal converted on a rebound off a shot from the left circle by Stepan at 5:59 of the period. They had not scored since Nash tallied on an empty-netter with 1 minute left in a 3-1 win at San Jose on Jan. 10.
Just 4:11 later, they scored again.
Stepan triggered the goal with a nifty stretch pass to Kreider, all alone behind the defense, who faked to his forehand before slipping a backhand just past Bobrovsky’s outstretched left toe at the post.
The Blue Jackets got on the board at 3:16 of the third. Bobrovsky, who made 24 stops, made a spectacular save on a redirect, with Ryan Johansen then connecting with Hartnell on a long pass. Hartnell beat Lundqvist high on the glove side, with the goalie picking up the second assist.
The Rangers, thanks to some quality saves by Lundqvist, hung on.
“I wouldn’t say we necessarily shut them down,” Vigneault said. “They had a couple of good looks. I liked the way we battled tonight. We weren’t crisp the whole night, but we found a way.”
Scott Hartnell had the goal for the Blue Jackets, who have dropped four in a row while being outscored 15-7 after collecting points in 13 of 15 games.
“It’s just frustrating we’re on a little bit of a skid right now,” Hartnell said.
Ryan Johansen extended his personal- and franchise-record points streak to 12 games with an assist (7-7-14). It’s the longest such streak in the NHL this season.
“We did some good things,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said.
Lundqvist was solid all night. He stymied Johansen on repeated whacks at a loose puck in the crease with just under 6 minutes left.
It appeared the Rangers got a big goal late. Bobrovsky deflected a high pass by Mats Zuccarello for Klein with 1:26 left in regulation. The puck glanced off the right leg of Hartnell and bounced into the net. It was ruled a no-goal on the ice and a video review was inconclusive whether Klein had contacted the puck with a high stick.
Bobrovsky stood tall as the Rangers swarmed with seven shots on their first power play, and also gloved Dominic Moore’s shot after Tanner Glass’ steal in the opening period.
Lundqvist, playing can-you-top-this, stopped Cam Atkinson in close after a New York giveaway early in the game, then twice turned away Johansen, first on a wrister and then point-blank off a loose puck, in a span of a few seconds.
NOTES: The Rangers played the second game of a three-game road trip; the Blue Jackets start one at Boston on Saturday. … The NHL has announced that Fall Out Boy (first intermission), O.A.R. (second intermission) and Locksley (player introductions) will provide the musicial entertainment for the All-Star Game in Nationwide Arena on Jan. 25. … Columbus LW Matt Calvert (illness) was also a game-time decision but played. … As has been the case ever since he tangled with Bobrovsky last season, former Blue Jackets captain Nash was booed lustily every time he touched the puck. … The Rangers have earned at least a point in 13 of their last 14 against fellow members of the Metropolitan Division (12-1-1).