The difference in the Rangers' 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus last night at the Garden was simple, according to Henrik Lundqvist: "I didn't stop the breakaways and he did."
That not only was the case in the shootout -- when Mark Letestu and Ryan Johansen beat Lundqvist and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash -- but during the first three periods, when the Rangers had to make a furious charge from a 3-1 third-period deficit to gain a point. Bobrovsky had 40 saves, Lundqvist 36.
The failure to grab an extra point after the comeback -- Nash tied the score at 3 at 6:55 of the third with his second power-play goal of the night against his former team -- disappointed Lundqvist. "That's a big point," he said. "I felt like my timing was better in Florida [in a shootout win], but today I didn't come up big when I needed."
Bobrovsky, starting for the first time since suffering a groin injury on Dec. 3, outplayed Lundqvist through two periods as the Blue Jackets built a 3-1 lead.
But Brian Boyle scored his second goal in two games, burying a rebound of John Moore's shot at 4:53 of the third.
When David Savard's clearing attempt went over the glass, the Rangers went on their fifth power play at 6:38. And 17 seconds later, with the crowd roaring, Ryan Callahan screened Bobrovsky and Nash scored his second goal of the game and ninth of the season on a long wrister from the high slot.
Lundqvist then stopped six shots in overtime, but Nash and Zuccarello couldn't solve Bobrovsky in the shootout.
"We came off a long road trip and the first couple periods were a little rough," Nash said. "But we stuck with it, got one point, but we don't want to be in that position in the third period."
Nash said it "will always feel a little different" against Columbus because "I spent 10 years there," but added that his two goals didn't mean anything significant. "It means something if we beat them," he said.
Alain Vigneault liked the first period, in which the Rangers (21-20-2) launched 16 shots, and hopes Nash's first multi-goal game of the season "gets him in the direction we need him to go."
After Nash and former Ranger Brandon Dubinsky traded first-period goals, the momentum turned toward Columbus 21 seconds into the second.
Chris Kreider checked Fedor Tyutin shoulder-to-shoulder into the glass and Tyutin stayed down (he did not return). Dubinsky confronted Kreider, who did not drop the gloves but was assessed a five-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct.
Then Cam Atkinson collected Anton Stralman's turnover, sped down ice, deked and slid the puck under Lundqvist from the doorstep at 1:01. That was the other breakaway that Lundqvist lamented.
Vigneault said he doesn't think Kreider will be suspended and Columbus president John Davidson said he thinks Tyutin will be all right. But the play surely will be reviewed by the league.
Bobrovsky shut the door on the next two power plays, and James Wisniewski, trailing on a three-on-two, whipped a shot that Lundqvist didn't stop at 16:47 for the 3-1 lead that forced the Rangers to dig deep.
"We showed some character coming back," Callahan said. "But it's bittersweet when you tie it up and end up losing in the shootout."