Nash returned Friday after missing four games with an lower-body injury and scored twice in the third period as the Columbus Blue Jackets rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Minnesota 4-2, putting another nail in the Wild's playoff hopes.
"(Nash) obviously made a big difference tonight," said goalie Mathieu Garon, who improved to 6-0-3 at home this season while making 18 saves. "He's a great leader and he showed it again. In the third, he took care of things."
The Wild came into the game 11th in the West, six points behind eighth-place Detroit. After looking like they'd leave Nationwide Arena with a much-needed two points, they went home empty-handed despite leading 2-0 in the second period and 2-1 with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation.
"It was definitely a disappointing loss," said Minnesota center Casey Wellman, who had an assist in his NHL debut. "They ended up getting a few good chances that they capitalized on."
The Wild felt Umberger interfered with Harding and that the goal shouldn't have counted.
"If you watch it on tape, Umberger skates in and he's in the crease," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "Josh goes to make the save and he's not allowed to. They said that (defenseman Nick Schultz) had made contact with (Umberger), but when you watch it, you can see that (Umberger) skated in there all by himself."
Before the Nationwide Arena crowd had finished celebrating the tying goal, the Jackets went ahead when Nash took a pass from Jake Voracek in the neutral zone while defenseman Cam Barker was heading to the bench to get a replacement stick. With no one to stop him, Nash skated in on Harding, faked one way and then slid a soft shot between the goaltender's leg pads to put Columbus ahead.
The Wild pulled Harding for an extra attacker in the final minute and Nash put the puck into the empty net for his 30th of the season, wrapping up the Jackets' fourth win in five games. Columbus won for only the third time in 29 games when trailing after two periods (3-22-4).
"I thought Rick Nash made a statement to the team that he is a tremendous leader and I think he showed that tonight," Jackets coach Claude Noel said. "He was a man among boys. He was outstanding for us and he took charge of the game."
Minnesota, which dropped to 22-7-2 when scoring first, opened the scoring midway through the first period. On a rush, Antti Miettinen's shot from the high slot caught the post -- but the puck rebounded to the left wing where Mikko Koivu slammed it home for his 20th of the season at 10:28.
Minnesota made it 2-0 just 2:42 into the second period. Barker kept the puck alive by chipping it back into the offensive zone, where Columbus' Chris Clark could not control it. Casey Wellman ended up with the puck and backhanded a pass that Chuck Kobasew jammed past Mathieu Garon.
The Blue Jackets got on the board at 13:23 when Huselius cleaned up a rebound off a shot during a scrum by Umberger. Huselius' first attempt hit the corner of the crossbar, but the puck came right back to him and he put the rebound behind Harding.
With 69 points, Columbus is going nowhere but home after the season ends in three weeks, but Nash feels it's important for his team to finish strongly.
"Obviously it is a little bit late, but momentum at the end of this year can carry over into next year," he said. "We are going to have the same core group here, so it is important to get past the things that we are not too good at. I thought we were the better team most of the night. We just didn't shoot enough."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|Mikko Koivu (20) ASST: Antti Miettinen (19)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Chuck Kobasew (6) ASST: Casey Wellman (1), Cam Barker (14)|
2 - 0 MIN
|Kristian Huselius (20) ASST: R.J. Umberger (27), Jared Boll (3)|
2 - 1 MIN
|Kris Russell (7) ASST: Kristian Huselius (35), Anton Stralman (25)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Rick Nash (29) ASST: Jakub Voracek (30)|
3 - 2 CBJ
|Rick Nash (30) ASST: Antoine Vermette (34)|
4 - 2 CBJ
|Marc Methot Elbowing against James Sheppard|
|Chuck Kobasew Tripping against Anton Stralman|
|Martin Havlat Interference on goalkeeper against Mathieu Garon|
|Nathan Paetsch Holding against James Sheppard|
|Marek Zidlicky Tripping against Rick Nash|
|James Sheppard Hi-sticking against Derek Dorsett|
|Nathan Paetsch Hooking against Casey Wellman|
|Martin Havlat Hooking against Rick Nash|