NEW YORK -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artem Anisimov admitted to feeling weird about being back in Madison Square Garden, where he played his home games during his first three NHL seasons.
Once the puck dropped Thursday, Anisimov made himself right at home.
In his first game here since being dealt to Columbus in the 2012 trade that sent Rick Nash to the New York Rangers, Anisimov scored, Mike McKenna made 17 saves in relief, and the Blue Jackets defeated the Rangers 4-2.
"I was very excited about this game. I had so much emotion," Anisimov said. "I just wanted to go on the ice and play the game and have fun. We won, so it's good."
Matt Calvert, David Savard and Ryan Johansen scored for Columbus, and Curtis McElhinney made 15 saves before leaving with a lower-body injury after the first period.
Dominic Moore and Dan Girardi scored for the Rangers. Cam Talbot made 13 saves in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, who was pulled 11:10 into the game after stopping 10 of 13 shots.
The Rangers have started a nine-game homestand 0-3-1. Nash, playing his first game against his former team, was a minus-2 with no shots in 22:51 of ice time.
Anisimov gave Columbus a 2-0 lead 8:46 into the first period after Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath drew a delayed penalty in the offensive zone and Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau led a 3-on-1 rush against Rangers defenseman John Moore. Comeau stopped near the Rangers crease, waited, and fed Anisimov, who beat Lundqvist, who was down and out of position.
"He made a good pass and I put the puck in the empty net," said Anisimov, who played 244 games for New York and received polite applause from the crowd when his eighth goal was announced. "It's so nice. Thank you so much for this cheer. I appreciate it."
Columbus (14-15-3) scored 38 seconds into the game. Cam Atkinson fed a streaking Calvert, who burned by Anton Stralman down the left wing before wiring a quick shot past Lundqvist's outstretched glove for his fourth of the season.
"It was a great pass. After that I kind of had a half-breakaway there," Calvert said. "I saw [Lundqvist] cheating a little bit to the blocker side and I just put it [by the] trapper."
Atkinson, who grew up in Connecticut 40 miles from New York City, estimated he had 30 family members and between 20 and 30 close friends in attendance.
"It was a nice snipe on Hank. You don't see that too often," Atkinson said. "It's definitely nice to get an assist and the win in front of family and friends. A memory I'll have for the rest of my life."
The Blue Jackets chased Lundqvist 2:24 later when R.J. Umberger outworked two Rangers on the half-wall before feeding the puck toward the slot. It ended up bouncing to Savard, whose wrist shot went through a crowd in front before deflecting off Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto and inside the far post for Savard's first of the season. New York coach Alain Vigneault then decided to bring in Talbot.
"The biggest thing for me now is believing what I do and staying confident. Confidence is such an important thing in this game and right now it's not very high," Lundqvist said. "Me not coming up with saves early is hurting me and the team. You just have to work through it. But it's definitely a test for your confidence."
The move appeared to momentarily spark the Rangers (15-17-1), who had the next five shots, including the one that would beat McElhinney.
Brad Richards' slap shot from the point was stopped by the goalie. But the puck rebounded past Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno in the crease straight to Dominic Moore, who deposited a backhand into the open net to make it 3-1 on his first of the season with 5:52 remaining, one second after a penalty to Fedor Tyutin expired.
Columbus made their goaltending switch to start the second, then put defensive clamps on New York in the third, holding the Rangers to three shots in the first 11 minutes.
Dan Girardi made it 3-2 on New York's fourth shot. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello skated down the left wing before finding the trailing defenseman, who beat McKenna to the glove side for his second of the season with 9:53 remaining.
"Obviously tonight, down by three, it's a big challenge. I thought the guys for the most part tried to battle back," Vigneault said. "We gave ourselves a chance. We made it a one-goal lead. Unfortunately, when you're behind, sometimes you take some risks. That's what happened on their fourth goal."
That goal by Johansen came with 92 seconds remaining. With Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh pinching at the blue line, Johansen tipped the puck ahead and sped toward Talbot. The goaltender got part of the shot, but the puck trickled behind him for Johansen's team-leading 11th of the season.
New York had a quality opportunity to cut the lead in the second period when Brandon Dubinsky, also sent to Columbus in the Nash trade and making his return to the Garden, was penalized two minutes for high-sticking McIlrath with 6:36 remaining. He was then issued another high-sticking minor 27 seconds after leaving the box. The Rangers had two shots on the back-to-back power plays.
"That was a big moment. At that point, you could feel if it was an opportunity for New York. Our penalty kill did a great job," Richards said. "Brandon is an emotional guy. I think he did get caught up a little bit in it on the first penalty."
The return for Dubinsky and Anisimov wasn't lost on their Columbus teammates.
"There were lots of subplots in this. Our room was particularly quiet before," Richards said. "They tend to be quiet and focused before the game. But our room was especially quiet tonight."