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Still a Jacket, Nash continues to haunt Coyotes

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The trade deadline has come and gone. Rick Nash is still a Columbus Blue Jacket.

The Phoenix Coyotes can't be any happier about that than Nash.

The Blue Jackets were unable to grant Nash's trade request, leaving him once again out of the playoff chase and in the familiar spoiler role in the Western Conference. Fighting for their first division title -- but needing points just to stay in a playoff spot -- the Coyotes face the Blue Jackets three times in the final 18 games of the season.

The standings would say that's a good thing. The scoreboard says otherwise. 

Exactly 30 points behind the Pacific Division leaders entering Saturday's game, the NHL's worst team rode a vintage performance from its captain, who scored two early goals and manufactured the clinching tally by Derick Brassard in a 5-2 win in Glendale.


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He scored in the first period, schooling Ray Whitney on the rush and beating one of the NHL's hottest goalies, Mike Smith, cleanly to the far top corner for a shorthanded tally. He made it 2-0 in the second on another breakout, shrugging off a mauling from behind by Phoenix defenseman Chris Summers before jamming the puck home.

And just after Columbus regained the lead 3-2 in the third, Nash forced a turnover behind the Phoenix net and, while sprawling to the ice, slid the puck into the slot where Brassard used the near post to bank in the insurance goal.

"That's just Rick being Rick," Brassard said. "He's such a powerful skater and protects the puck so well. After he scored that second goal, everyone on the bench was saying 'Uh oh, Rick is playing good tonight.'

"He made some really nice plays and that's what we need from him ... to be our star player, our best player."
That always seems to be the case against the Coyotes. Columbus has won both meetings with Phoenix this season, and Nash has three goals and four points in the two games.

"Big-time players, big-time game, and he obviously had a huge impact on the game," Columbus interim coach Todd Richards said. "Not just the goals that he scored but some of the really nice defensive player he made. He led the way."

That's nothing new -- he now has 17 goals and 33 points in just 32 career games against Phoenix. Jaw-dropping efforts at Arena, which Nash has turned into his own private highlight house, have become the norm.

"I don't know what it is, something about this building, but I'm not complaining. I'm not going to question it," said Nash, who scored the signature goal of his career, stickhanding around three Coyotes for the winning score in the final seconds back in 2008.

The trading deadline came and went last week, with the Blue Jackets unable to find a deal a grant Nash's wish to be traded. But after dealing the likes of Jeff Carter, Antoine Vermette, and Samuel Pahlsson for draft picks and younger players, Columbus has beaten the St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche before continuing to frustrate the Coyotes -- Saturday's win was the third in their last four meetings with Phoenix.

Nash said he didn't worry about whether a deal would go down. He just concentrated on playing. And his teammates have taken notice.

"When (Nash's) name came out around the deadline, he just showed up the next night and he was all over the place, showing up and scoring a goal," Brassard said. "It shows a lot for our team. He's still our captain. If he's going to stick around next year -- I don't know what's going to happen -- but from what I see he's a guy who wants to play and show us the way.

"He's the franchise player. When I first got to Columbus (four years ago) I was just looking at him like he was God, but he's a great guy and a great leader in the room and I hope he's going to stay with us."
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