Like it or not, Rick Nash's stock---and maybe his price at the trade deadline---went up a little last night.
Nash's shot from the right circle with 1:33 left in regulation went past Henrik Lundqvist to tie the Rangers and Blue Jackets 2-2 at Madison Square Garden. Then the chants from the crowd started: "We Don't Want You."
Nash, who has been the topic of discussions between the teams' general managers, Glen Sather and Scott Howson, brushed off the taunts, saying they are expected in any arena when an opponent scores in the waning seconds to send a game into overtime. And he added that he did not consider the game a showcase: "No, we're trying to win. I'll do everything I can to help our team win."
But Nash, the team's captain, hasn't been enough to salvage a miserable season for the Blue Jackets, who have just seven wins on the road and are in last place in the NHL with 41 points after Derek Stepan scored just 22 seconds into overtime to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 win. And whatever heroics may not be enough to avoid a dismantling of the Jackets in the next few months.
“I faced him a lot over the years in international games,” said Lundqvist, who made 21 saves and is 8-1-0 in the last nine games. “I know there’s been some speculation, whatever happens, happens. But he’s a talented guy, strong and a good shooter. It was a knuckle shot that went straight down. I’d rather see him get a clean rocket there and make the save.”
It was less critical because skating four on four, Stepan scored into an almost empty net to finish an exquisite series of passes by Marian Gaborik, who first faked a slapper, and Michael Del Zotto, whose cross-ice pass found Stepan unguarded. “Helluva play,” said coach John Tortorella.
But this one should have been easier.
With the Rangers leading 2-1, a wrister by Del Zotto, who had two assists, appeared to cross the goal line with 0.01 seconds left in the second period, according to a replay on the scoreboard. After a review in the war room in Toronto with the “official” clock, the referee reported that the puck was on the line at 0.00: No goal, and no 3-1 lead. “I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed,” Del Zotto said. “They have six damn clocks,” Tortorella said afterward. “But it was the right call.”
After Derek Brassard had tied the game at one with a power-play blast at 5:26 of the second, the Rangers regained the lead when a long shot by Dan Girardi caromed off the end glass and to the left of the net, where Artem Anisimov pounced and scored past sprawling Mason (32 saves) at 13:13.
In the first, Richards finished a give-and-go with Carl Hagelin by zipping the puck though the legs of Mason at 17:49 for a 1-0 lead. It was his 18th goal of the season and 2nd in six games.
In the end, the Rangers avoided back-to-back losses for the first time since Dec. 13 and 15, and climbed to 38-14-5 and 81 points. With a loss by the Bruins, the Rangers stand atop the Eastern Conference, nine points ahead of Boston and the surging Devils.