Rick Nash stared speculation and rumors in the face prior to tonight’s game and told the media he was focused on getting two points against the New York Rangers. He nearly willed the Blue Jackets to the second point tonight, but in the end, the Rangers carried their third-period momentum into overtime and quickly scored the game-winner.
Nash scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season with 1:33 to play in the third period with Steve Mason on the bench for an extra attacker, beating Lundqvist over the blocker and sending the game to overtime.
Just as the extra session began, Michael Del Zotto collected a loose puck in the right circle and found Derek Stepan alone at the side of the net. Stepan made no mistake in cashing his 12th of the year 22 seconds into overtime, giving the Rangers a 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves to earn his 25th win of the season, and in the process, the Rangers increased their lead to nine points over the Boston Bruins atop the Eastern Conference standings.
The Blue Jackets spent most of the first period in their own zone, but survived an early barrage from the Rangers’ top line and looked to be in good stead as the opening frame wound down. That changed when Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards connected on a give-and-go for a 1-0 lead at 17:49. Columbus responded with the tying goal at 5:26 of the second period thanks to Derick Brassard, who scored his second goal in as many games. As the Blue Jackets were beginning a power play, he stepped into a slap shot from the center point and beat Lundqvist on the stick side.
Artem Anisimov put the Rangers ahead 2-1 at 13:13 of the second by burying a crazy rebound off the back glass, and redeemed New York after it struggled to get anything going during a 93-second 5-on-3 advantage. Mason was solid for the Blue Jackets throughout the game, and came up with several key saves (especially on the two-man advantage) to keep Columbus afloat.
The momentum appeared to turn at the end of the second period when Michael Del Zotto’s apparent buzzer-beater was disallowed. NHL video goal judges determined the puck crossed the goal line after time had expired, and television broadcast game clocks were not synced to the official clock. That goal would have given the Rangers a 3-1 lead, but they nearly got it back in the third period.
Marian Gaborik hit John Mitchell with a pass in the slot, and he got Mason to come out of the net. David Savard made a great defensive play to stuff Mitchell’s shot at the post and keep the puck out of harm’s way, giving Columbus a lift en route to tying the game.
Columbus has power play goals in seven of the last eight games after going 1-for-4 with the man advantage tonight. The club is 9-of-32 (28.1 percent) the last eight games after going 4-of-42 (9.5 percent) the previous 17 games.
Brassard has goals in back-to-back games after scoring his 11th of the season tonight. He had been held goalless the previous five games. He has points in six of the last nine games (4-4-8), while registering 7-7-14 the last 20 games and 9-10-19 the last 27 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.
Antoine Vermette has points in three of the last four games after tallying an assist on Brassard’s goal. He also has points in six of the last nine games (2-4-6) and 3-9-12 the last 18 games after being held to 1-1-2 the previous 13 games.
Nash has points in six of eight games after scoring his 19th goal of the season in the third period tonight. He has 2-5-7 during that stretch, while collecting 6-7-13 the last 20 games and 15-13-28 the last 41 games. He has scored 15 goals the last 40 games after being held to four goals the first 19 games of the season. In nine career games against the Rangers, he has tallied 8-1-9.
Jeff Carter has points in three of the last four games after notching an assist on Nash’s goal. He also has points in five of the last eight games (2-3-5) after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games.
vs. San Jose Sharks
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: CD102.5 FM & BlueJackets.com