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COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the first 40 minutes Saturday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets looked like the team that piled up 16 straight wins during one impressive streak.
Then the third period started, and the Blue Jackets looked like the team that got pounded by Washington in its previous game.
Michael Grabner scored on a breakaway with 17 seconds left, and the New York Rangers rallied for a dramatic 5-4 victory over Columbus that included four unanswered goals — three in the final period.
"When some pucks went in, I thought we got nervous as a team and lost ourselves a little bit," Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
Grabner's shot through Curtis McElhinney's pads after a turnover handed the Blue Jackets their second straight loss after they pulled within one of the NHL record for consecutive wins.
Grabner and Adam Clendening each had two goals and Oscar Lindberg also scored for the Rangers, who moved within a point of the Blue Jackets at the top of the tough Metropolitan Division.
Columbus got goals from Markus Nutivaara, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell and Lukas Sedlak but was badly outplayed by New York in the frenetic third period.
"The way we played in the third, we deserved to at least get a tie game, I think," said Henrik Lundqvist, who had 33 saves for the Rangers. "We pushed for the next goal all the time, had good speed and good energy. It took us a while to get going."
McElhinney, who subbed for Sergei Bobrovsky in the first of back-to-back home games, had 29 saves, but was juked by Grabner on a rush and couldn't stop the game-winner.
The Blue Jackets put together a fast start against the Rangers after their win streak was stopped by a 5-0 loss at Washington on Thursday night.
Nutivaara wound up and rocketed a slap shot past Lundqvist from just inside the blue line at 1:54 of the first. The Blue Jackets got another goal just 10 seconds into a power play when Sam Gagner slid a pass across the mouth of the goal and Atkinson slammed it home for his team-leading 19th goal at 4:37.
The Rangers made it 2-1 when Lindberg got his first goal of the season on a rush, lifting the puck over McElhinney's shoulder from the right circle with 14:01 gone in the first.
Gagner got another slick assist less than 2 minutes later when he took the puck away from Kevin Klein deep in the Rangers' zone and passed it out from behind the net to Hartnell, who batted it out of the air and into the goal. That put Columbus up 3-1 at the end of the first.
Columbus extended the lead 3 minutes into the second when Lukas Sedlak carried the puck over the blue line on a rush and juked Lundqvist with a shot between the pads.
The rest of the game was all New York.
Grabner answered just over a minute later with a wrist shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 rush. Clendening netted his first two goals of the season in the third period, setting up Grabner's dramatic dash.
"I don't want to put it all on (McElhinney), but we do need a couple of saves there," Tortorella said.
The Rangers outshot Columbus 14-6 in the final period.
NOTES: The Rangers lead the NHL in goals with 144. ... New York ended an eight-game home winning streak for Columbus. ... Bobrovsky is expected to play Sunday against Philadelphia. ... New York F Rick Nash (groin) missed his eighth straight game because of a groin injury. Nash is the Blue Jackets' career scoring leader (289 goals, 547 points). ... Rangers D Marc Staal missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... The Blue Jackets' home attendance was up 20 percent in December over last year.
Rangers: Host Toronto on Friday.
Blue Jackets: Host Philadelphia on Sunday.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy