NEW YORK — Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his second goal of the game with 26.5 seconds left to lift Columbus Blue Jackets over the New York Rangers 2-1 Sunday night for their fifth straight win.
Bjorkstrand was playing for the first time after 13 games with an oblique injury. He tied it 6:08 into the third period, then put the winner past goalie Igor Shesterkin for his 14th goal of the season.
Columbus rookie Matiss Kivlenieks made his first NHL start and stopped 31 shots. The surging Blue Jackets are 15-2-4 since Dec. 9. They are also 8-1-3 in their last 12 road games.
Rangers defenceman Brady Skjei opened the scoring at 18:28 of the first period, eight seconds after his high-sticking penalty expired. A long pass from fellow defenceman Jacob Trouba went past Skjei’s outstretched stick, but he managed to scoop up the ricochet off the boards and beat Kivlenieks for his seventh goal. Trouba had the only assist.
The 23-year-old Kivlenieks, from Riga, Latvia, was making his debut after fellow Latvian goalie Elvis Merzlikins blanked the New Jersey Devils 5-0 in Columbus on Saturday.
The Rangers were coming off two straight wins over the Islanders, 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday and a 6-2 drubbing Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Kivlenieks, who was 7-7-2 with AHL Cleveland this season, played a strong second period. He denied Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith on point-blank chances in front. He made 14 saves in the third period.
Shesterkin made 29 saves in his third career start. He won his previous two against Colorado and New Jersey, both at home, earlier this month.
The Rangers scratched Fs Phillip DiGiuseppe and Micheal Haley and G Alexandar Georgiev. … The Blue Jackets scratched F Sonny Milano, D Adam Clendening and injured G Joonas Korpisalo. … The teams meet again Feb. 14 in Columbus and March 24 in New York. … The Rangers are the only team with eight players age 21 or younger to appear in at least one game this season. … Rangers defencemen have 133 points (38 goals, 95 assists) this season, the most goals and points by defencemen on any team.
Rangers: Host Islanders on Tuesday night before All-Star break.
Blue Jackets: Host Winnipeg on Wednesday night before All-Star break.
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Allan Kreda, The Associated Press