NEW YORK – John Tortorella didn’t mince words Monday at Madison Square Garden.
Asked about Matt Calvert being sidelined for an estimated 3-4 weeks with an upper-body injury, the Blue Jackets’ coach summed up how big of a hole it creates in the lineup.
“He’s been our best 200-foot player all year long, from the start of camp to where he was lost last game,” Tortorella said. “All the way through.”
Calvert’s injury occurred Saturday on a hard open-ice hit by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi. Calvert flew back to Columbus rather than heading to New York with the team Sunday, and his absence was felt a day later.
The Blue Jackets concluded their three-game road trip Monday with a 5-3 loss against the New York Rangers, after giving up two power-play goals in the third period and losing leads of 2-0 and 3-2.
“This is what the league’s about,” Tortorella said. “We always talk when you have injuries, someone else is the next guy up, and it gives them an opportunity to bang on the door and maybe say, ‘You know what, I want some of this ice time when he comes back.’ So, yeah, it’s healthy.”
The Blue Jackets (9-5-1) aren’t healthy, though.
Any of the them would’ve been nice to have against the Rangers, who’d won three straight games. Instead, it was up to the healthy Blue Jackets to get the job done.
They just couldn’t do it this time, despite Artemi Panarin ending a career-long 10-game goal-less streak, Josh Anderson scoring his team-high sixth goal of the season and Oliver Bjorkstrand scoring his third goal in the past three games.
Sergei Bobrovsky did his part early, making several highlight-worthy stops among his 10 saves in the first period to keep it 0-0. He made several more in the second, and xx for the game, but couldn’t hold off the Rangers’ power play in the third.
The Blue Jackets’ penalty kill, which is now missing its best defensive forward in Calvert, gave up three power-play goals in the third period – all coming after costly penalties by Panarin (high-sticking), Zac Dalpe (elbowing) and David Savard (tripping).
The first one, scored by Kevin Shattenkirk, tied it 2-2 at 5:10. Bjorkstrand put the Jackets back I in front at 8:01, but New York surged ahead on back-to-back power-play goals by Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich at 9:40 and 11:27.
It was too much for the Blue Jackets to overcome. They dropped their second straight game, finished the trip 1-1-1 and headed back to Columbus for the finale of a back-to-back – and third game in four days – against the Nashville Predators on Monday.