Rick Nash and the Rangers staged an exciting comeback against Nash's former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Monday night at Madison Square Garden and it earned them a point in the standings, but they could not secure the second point as the Blueshirts dropped a 4-3 decision in a contest decided by the shootout.
After the Rangers had wiped out a two-goal third-period deficit and survived a wild overtime in which they were out-shot 6-1, they could not beat Sergei Bobrovsky in the shootout while Columbus' Mark Letestu and Ryan Johansen both bested Henrik Lundqvist to give the Blue Jackets the extra point.
Mats Zuccarello and Nash both tested Bobrovsky's glove in the shootout and came away empty. Letestu beat Lundqvist low glove side before Johansen won it in the second round with a dazzling backhand shot roofed under the crossbar. The Rangers are 3-2 in shootouts this season, and they are now three points ahead of the Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Trailing 3-1 early in the third period, despite having out-shot Columbus 31-20 through 40 the first 40 minutes of play, the Rangers erupted for a pair of goals in a two-minute span to forge a 3-3 tie and bring Madison Square Garden back to life.
Brian Boyle scored from out in front---with both Moores, Dom and John, earning the assists--at 4:53 to start the comeback. The goal was Boyle's third of the season and second in as many games, and he celebrated by raising his arms, skating to the side, and slamming his stick against the glass.
New York then pulled even at 6:55 when Nash scored his, and the team's second power play goal of the night. With Ryan Callahan providing the screen in front, and Brad Richards making the smart pass back to Nash inside the blueline, Nash sent a long-range shot past the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky stick side and the Rangers had pulled even on the scoreboard.
Nash had been held without a point and without a shot on goal in his first-ever game against his former team in a 4-2 Rangers loss to the Blue Jackets on December 12th. By the end of the first period Monday he already had a goal and three shots. Nash's goals Monday were his eighth and ninth of the season, and second and third in his last 11 games.
Bobrovsky, who missed the previous 14 games due to a groin injury, was tested early and often with the Rangers recording 16 shots in goal in the first period, 15 more in the second, and another 11 in the third. Despite this being his first game action since December 3rd Bobrovsky showed why he is one of the league's elite netminders by keeping his team in the game throughout even when the Rangers outshot and outchanced them by a fairly decisive margin at times. He finished with a season-high 40 saves.
At the other end of the ice was Lundqvist, who preceded Bobrovsky as the 2012 Vezina Trophy winner. He was very sharp, as well, but was beaten on a deflection, a breakaway, and an odd-man rush---and had to be wondering why he couldn't have had the type of game Cam Talbot did in Toronto on Saturday when the Rangers cruised to a 7-1 victory. However Lundqvist kept his focus and continued to make big stops, and it paid off when the Rangers rallied in the third period.
In overtime Lundqvist stopped six shots, including a tremendous glove save on a Cam Atkinson rocket. Lundqvist ended the night with 36 saves.
The Rangers out-shot the Blue Jackets 16-10 in the opening period with the scored tied 1-1 after 20 minutes of play. The two key players who were a part of the summer 2012 trade between these two teams ironically were the goal scorers in that first period.
Brandon Dubinsky put Columbus on the board first when his deflection in front beat Lundqvist at 17:07. The puck was actually deflected twice on the way to Lundqvist---James Wisniewski's blueline slap shot first caroming off Nathan Horton's stick before Dubinsky got a piece for his eighth goal of the season.
Exactly two minutes later Nash scored his first goal of the night to pull the Rangers even, 1-1. With Columbus forward Mark Letestu in the penalty box for tripping, Nash took a pass from Michael Del Zotto in the left circle, and snapped a quick shot that beat Bobrovsky short side with 52.8 seconds remaining in the period.
A controversial turning point in the game arrived on the first shift of the second period when Chris Kreider leveled Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin, the ex-Ranger, and Tyutin fell hard and awkwardly into the boards. Dubinsky came over, dropped his gloves, and took some swings at Kreider, but the Rangers forward did not take the bait while trying to explain that his hit was a shoulder to shoulder one and that Tyutin was not hit from behind.
The officials decided to assess Kreider a five-minute major for boarding along with a game misconduct, while Dubinsky was hit with a roughing minor. On the ensuing 4-on-4 Atkinson took off on a breakaway for Columbus and beat Lundqvist between the pads to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead 61 seconds into the middle period.
The Rangers regrouped and killed off the remaining three minutes on Kreider's penalty and then were frustrated over and over by Bobrovsky who set about robbing the Blueshirts left and right. When Wisniewski scored off the rush with 3:13 remaining in the second period to put New York in a 3-1 hole it looked like this was not going to be the home team's night. That is until Boyle started the Rangers exciting comeback early in the third period.
Now 5-2-1 over their last eight games, the Rangers head to Chicago to face off with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Wednesday night.