- Associated Press - Friday, March 21, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - It wasn’t the Columbus homecoming that Rick Nash envisioned.

In the end, though, he said it worked out fine.

Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan scored third-period goals, and Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves to lead the New York Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

“I knew it was going to be a playoff atmosphere,” Nash said of his return to Columbus, where he starred for nine seasons before asking to be traded. “I wouldn’t expect to push their goalie to start a fight and then to be in a fight myself. But the two points were huge. That’s what we needed.”

Nash, the Columbus franchise leader in goals, assists and games, was given a standing ovation during a video tribute in the first period. He ended up vilified after a second-period, two-handed shove up high on Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

“They gave me my standing ovation. It means a lot,” said Nash, who still has a residence in Columbus. “They love their Blue Jackets. We talked (before the game) about it being half boos and half cheers. Then it was 90 percent boos. But we got the points, so that’s what mattered.”

Nash said his shove of Bobrovsky was justified because the goalie had whacked at him a couple of times in the first period and then had knocked his stick aside as he went to pick it up.

The Blue Jackets disagreed.

“He took a cheap shot at our goalie,” said Matt Calvert, who fought Nash at mid-ice 12 seconds into the third period. “He had to pay for what he did. It was a gutless move.”

On a rush, Nash muscled the puck into the net after making contact with Bobrovsky. The goal was disallowed due to goalie interference.

As Nash went to get his stick, Bobrovsky picked it up with his stick and then dropped it as Nash reached for it. Nash then hit Bobrovsky high with both hands, touching off five two-man scuffles and sending Nash to the box for roughing.

Brassard, who played his first five NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets, broke a 1-1 tie with a nifty goal with 8:29 remaining.

He corralled a pass along the back wall from defenseman Anton Stralman, who had two assists, and flipped the puck between his legs to the doorstep. Brassard then pivoted and jammed a shot in off Bobrovsky’s pad.

“I was just trying to put the puck in front of the net,” said Brassard, traded to New York in the Blue Jackets’ deadline deal for Marian Gaborik a year ago. “I caught him off guard. I was just happy to put it in.”

Carl Hagelin added an empty-net goal for the Rangers, who moved two points ahead of the Blue Jackets in the tight Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference playoff races.

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