Long before the New York Rangers began their upward climb, one of their worst showings of the season was a four-goal home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 23.
It wasn't long before the Rangers got rolling, but some of those early stumbles may prevent them from getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
Trying to track down the second place New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division, the Rangers hope to inch closer to clinching a playoff spot -- if they have not officially done so -- ahead of Tuesday's visit from the Blue Jackets.
New York (43-20-10, 96 points) will be at least four points behind the Devils entering Tuesday but also could clinch a playoff spot before taking the ice. The Rangers would need a loss by the Buffalo Sabres to the Montreal Canadiens and a regulation loss by the Florida Panthers to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.
New York might have clinched already if not for a middling 11-10-5 start through Dec. 3. One of those early outcomes was a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jackets in their sixth game of the season, when the Rangers allowed two goals apiece in the second and third periods.
The Rangers head into their third meeting with the Blue Jackets on an 8-1-1 roll.
New York has four of its 15 one-goal victories in this stretch, including Saturday's 4-3 win at Florida that also marked its 21st comeback win. The Rangers allowed the first two goals and then scored the next four while taking 39 of their 42 shots after the first period.
Patrick Kane scored the tiebreaking goal 1:22 into the third period, and his goal was sandwiched around goals by New York's "Kid Line" of Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil. Kane and the kids carried the offense in a game when New York's star trio of Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider were held without a point.
"The Kid Line was amazing for us," Kane said. "And that's I think one of the reasons we have potential to go deep in the playoffs is the depth of the team. (We aren't) just depending on Zibanejad and Panarin and Kreider to score every night."
The Rangers are hoping Ryan Lindgren will finally be fully healthy and able to play. He has missed 13 of the previous 14 games with a shoulder injury and was a full participant in practice Monday.
Columbus (23-42-7, 53 points) is tied with the San Jose Sharks for the fewest points in the league and is seeking a third straight win over a divisional opponent. The Blue Jackets earned a 7-6 overtime win at Washington last Tuesday and then notched a 5-4 overtime home win against the New York Islanders on Friday.
Overall, Columbus is 3-7-1 over its past 11 games and has allowed at least five goals eight times in that span.
The most recent instance was Saturday's nightmarish 8-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. After Kirill Marchenko scored the tying goal late in the first period, Columbus allowed four goals and got outshot 17-5 in the second.
"The second period killed us," Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. "We didn't skate enough and we didn't manage the puck at all, and then we weren't reloading in the offensive zone."
--Field Level Media