For Rick Nash, it was an unexpected gift on Christmas Eve.
At about 11 a.m. Wednesday, the NHL awarded the elite winger a hat trick -- his first as a Ranger -- in Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.
The news came in a league release: "Goal at 16:12 of the 3rd period now reads: Nash from Stepan and Brassard."
The goal initially was listed as the second of the game for Martin St. Louis, who was in front of the net for Nash's shot that went by Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
Instead, it became Nash's 23rd goal of the season and the sixth hat trick of his NHL career. Before that, his last one was on Nov. 20, 2010, when he played for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"It seemed like we couldn't get anything going on the five-on-three from the outside, so I tried to circle out," Nash said on Tuesday. "Step is one of the best passers in the league and I knew he would find me. It was just one of those things to get a shot on net."
According to the team, Nash is the first Ranger to score three goals against Washington since Mark Messier on Dec. 13, 1991, and the first Ranger to do so at MSG since Brian Mullen on Oct. 19, 1988.
Nash is on a sensational run, with a point in 25 of 32 games and a goal in 18. He ranks second in the NHL in goals (23) and even-strength goals (17). Partly because of that hot streak, the Rangers enter the Christmas break on a seven-game winning streak.
"I think we have to enjoy it," Nash said. "We've worked hard these last seven games and there have been some tough ones on the road. But in the same sentence, we have to be ready to come back on the 27th and earn our wins still."