COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some people in Columbus said Nikolai Zherdev was a malcontent, or that he was selfish. They said he dogged it in games and was a bad teammate.
He looked pretty good on Friday night. Zherdev had a successful return to Columbus with a goal and two assists to lead his new team, the New York Rangers, to a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets.
"It was a good team win," Zherdev said. "I was just happy to score."
His third-period goal prompted a mixture of boos and cheers from a crowd of 14,724. That didn't upset Zherdev one bit.
"Yes, that's OK," he said with a smile.
Brandon Dubinsky redirected a pass off his right skate for a controversial goal that gave the Rangers the lead to stay. Daniel Girardi also had a goal and an assist.
Rangers coach Tom Renney was knocked briefly unconscious after being hit on the head by a stick in the second period and did not return. He later did come out to talk about Zherdev.
"When I came to the rink earlier this afternoon he was here and ready," Renney said. "He was looking at the ice surface by himself in solitude. I thought he was really zooming in on this one."
Jake Voracek had the only goal for Columbus.
Zherdev, the third-leading scorer in Blue Jackets franchise history, was traded after four up-and-down seasons along with Dan Fritsche for defencemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman on July 2.
With Columbus controlling the puck for much of the third period, Zherdev took a deflection off of Markus Naslund's pass to Chris Drury and lifted a shot high into the net for his third goal of the season and a 3-1 lead with 6:12 remaining.
It was Zherdev's first three-point game with the Rangers.
"It's not easy going back to the team that traded you," Drury said. "He seemed real focused. He just had a great night."
Voracek poked the puck away from defenceman Dmitri Kalinin near mid-ice and then swooped in on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped his first shot but the rebound came right back to Voracek for the putback. It was the rookie's third goal of the season.
"The key for us was that we didn't change anything even though they got that goal," said Lundqvist, who had 25 saves. "We just kept playing the same way and for us it was a perfect road game."
Zherdev assisted on both second-period goals, including Dubinsky's controversial score.
Girardi tied the score with a shot from the right point, beating Pascal Leclaire with a hard shot through congestion.
At the 12:11 mark, the Rangers took the lead while on a 4-on-3 advantage. Zherdev slid a pass into the slot. Dubinsky swivelled the heel of his right skate to deflect the puck past Leclaire. The goal was allowed after a video review.
NHL Rule 49.2 states "a puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player's skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident."
Leclaire had 29 saves for the Blue Jackets, who lost for the first time after winning their first two home games.
Zherdev said it was a relief to get the Columbus trip out of the way.
"Yes. Because tomorrow is next game and a new game," he said.
Notes: Columbus C Michael Peca played his first game after a five-game suspension for making contact with an official in the season-opener in Dallas. ... The Rangers are now 2-4 at Columbus, their only previous win coming on Feb. 12, 2001. ... The Rangers were 1-for-8 on the power play and the Blue Jackets 1-for-6. ... Jason Chimera and Rick Nash had three-game goal streaks end for Columbus.