Goalie Henrik Lundqvist admitted his New York Rangers were in a tough hole when Columbus scored with just under four minutes left to take the lead. New York found its way out in a hurry.
Mats Zuccarello had two goals and the Rangers scored three times in 1:17 late in the third to rally to a 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Friday night.
Brandon Saad, the Blue Jackets’ blockbuster acquisition in the off-season, scored on a power play at 16:10 to give Columbus a 2-1 lead in its season opener.
“I didn’t have a good feeling after they scored that goal late in the game,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 31 saves. “They looked very confident the way they play, but we figured it out.”
After a Columbus turnover, Oscar Lindberg netted a low shot for his second goal in as many games to tie it at 2.
Just 17 seconds later, Kevin Hayes made it 3-2 with a shot from the right corner along the end line that found its way past Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished with 21 stops.
Zuccarello capped the scoring from the right circle a minute later.
“All of our guys are competitors,” said Alain Vigneault, who earned his 100th win as the Rangers’ coach. “Even though we were down, it’s about finding a way. I thought our guys did that well.”
The Rangers played another strong road game, coming off a 3-2 win in their season opener Wednesday over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Vigneault said the Rangers knew Columbus would come out being physical and energized in front of their home crowd.
“That’s how Columbus plays. We talked about weathering the storm a little bit that first 10 minutes,” he said.
Cam Atkinson also scored for the Blue Jackets, who are looking to avoid the slow starts that have put them in deep holes the past four seasons. Even a franchise-best 12-0-1 points streak to finish last season wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs.
Columbus had the Rangers where they wanted them but things unraveled in the defensive end.
“We played 57 1/2 minutes of the game,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “Mistakes are going to happen. They are a good hockey team and are going to generate their opportunities.”
Zuccarello started the scoring late in a hard-hitting, fast-paced first period. Gregory Campbell couldn’t reach a short pass from David Savard deep in the Columbus end. Zuccarello scooped up the loose puck near the crease and flipped a backhand shot past Bobrovsky.
Atkinson pulled Columbus even at the midpoint of the second period. He scored on a breakaway on a nifty move for his first goal on a long pass from Brandon Dubinsky from his knees.
NOTES: The teams play again Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Alain Vigneault won his 100th game as the Rangers coach. …Columbus C Alexander Wennberg left the game with an upper-body injury in the first period. …Former Blue Jacket Rick Nash was booed every time he touched the puck. …The Blue Jackets played their first regular season game with a captain since 2011. Nick Foligno was given the ‘C’ in the off-season …Rangers D Kevin Klein played in his 500th career game. …Columbus is 6-7-2 all-time in season openers.