Rangers heat back up, get 40th win at expense of Blue Jackets

Artemi Panarin scored his 250th career goal in the second period and added a second tally in the final seconds as the New York Rangers became the NHL’s first team to 40 wins with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves as the Rangers won for the 11th time in 12 games and bounced back from a 4-2 loss on Sunday at Columbus that stopped their team record-tying winning streak. New York reached 40 wins in its 60th game, matching the 1972-73 team record for the fewest games to do so.

Panarin extended his career high by scoring his 34th goal of the season and became the 50th active player to reach the milestone.

Panarin reached his milestone 7:17 into the second after the Rangers were constantly thwarted by Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.

After Vincent Trocheck won a faceoff from Boone Jenner at the right dot, Columbus defenseman Damon Severson briefly had possession but lost the puck to Panarin, whose shot from the middle of the faceoff circle sailed by Merzlikins.

Adam Fox scored his 10th goal and Chris Kreider reached 30 goals for the third straight season when he scored into an empty net with 53 seconds left.

Panarin got his second goal when he scored into the empty net with 12 seconds left and finished with a three-point night after setting up Kreider’s goal.

Shesterkin won his seventh straight start since Jan. 26, though his misplay behind the net led to the Columbus goal. He also was called for a tripping penalty after stopping Kirill Marchenko’s backhand on a breakaway with 14:40 left in the third.

Merzlikins made 26 saves as the Blue Jackets were unable to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 22-24. He made 17 stops in the opening 20 minutes, highlighting it with a split through the crease to make a glove save on Panarin with about 10 minutes left.

After Panarin scored, Fox made it 2-0 with 5:41 remaining following a misplay by Erik Gudbranson. The Columbus defenseman lost the puck in the right corner to Kreider and Fox finished the sequence with a wrist shot from between the circles that went over Merzlikins’ left shoulder.

The Blue Jackets ended the shutout bid 3:24 into the third when Cole Sillinger tapped in his own rebound into an open net after Shesterkin lost the puck behind the net to Severson.