COLUMBUS----Forget about that NHL-leading 12th road win for awhile.
Rick Nash scored twice in the last 5:09 of regulation tonight, first after he shouldered past Marc Staal and handcuffed Henrik Lundqvist with a low, impossible-angle shot from behind the goal line, and then on a breakaway with 1:12 left, as the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were 1-5-1 in the last seven, edged the Rangers 3-1.
The first flub left Lundqvist gazing in frustration at the Nationwide Arena scoreboard at the replay, but give Nash, the Jackets’ captain playing his franchise-leading 544th game, all the credit for his second goal. He deked Lundqvist badly and went forehand and backhand for the clincher with 1:12 left.
“The last one I might as well stay on the bench,” said Lundqvist. “I didn’t know where the net was or anything. He made me look pretty stupid there. Tough way to end the game.”
For the Rangers, however, the crusher was Nash’s first. “I hugged the post as hard as I could, but when you put your pad there, there will always be a little hole,” said Lundqvist. “I’m just very disappointed...I could feel it hit my skate. It’s hard to be positive right now. That goal hurt us. I always stand like that, maybe I can put my stick there, but it’s a very awkward position.”
So the Rangers (17-13-1), split the two-game road trip and are 11-5 away from Madison Square Garden, where they host the Capitals tonight in the eighth back-to-back set of the season. The Rangers are 7-0 in the second games of those series.
“It was probably one of our better games in the past few weeks, I thought some guys that hadn’t been playing well, played really well tonight,” said coach John Tortorella. “Del Zotto…Frolov…Anisimov, everybody contributed, we played our --- off, it’s a tough way to loss on that type of goal.” The Rangers fired 33 shots on Steve Mason, who allowed very few rebounds.
As for Nash, who also had an assist on the goal that tied the score at 1, Tortorella said: “We stuffed him the whole night until he scores from behind the goal line. It’s frustrating, I’ll admit that. To come up empty with an effort like that, you’ve got to move by it.”
After a scoreless, physical first period, the teams traded power play goals in the second. With Andy Murray out for tripping Sean Avery, Staal finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play at 9:53. Brandon Dubinsky found Ruslan Fedotenko behind the net, and the winger found Staal, cheating down into the left circle. It was Staal’s fifth goal of the season and marked the eighth game in the last 11 that the Blueshirts had scored with a man advantage.
But with Erik Christensen off for slashing the stick of Murray in the Rangers zone, Antoine Vermette got his shaft on R.J Umberger’s shot while in front with Ryan Callahan on him. The puck changed direction and went under Lundqvist at 15:43. Nash, who had a goal and two assists in his last two games after registering just one assist in his previous seven, received the secondary assist.
From then on, a second goal for the Blueshirts proved elusive. So did the chance to extend the franchise record for the best road mark out of the gate.