Though the pre-game focus of the curious New York media was on what Columbus captain Rick Nash would have to say Sunday night---he offered a series of "no comments" and had little else to say about a possible trade to the Blueshirts---the Rangers instead were focused on trying to secure another two points in the standings by beating Nash and his Blue Jackets.
And in the end, the Rangers ignored the distractions of trade rumors and were able to do just that, defeating the Blue Jackets in overtime 3-2, upping their Eastern Conference-leading point total to 81 on the season in the process.
Though they dominated long stretches of the game---often hemming Columbus in its own end for prolonged periods of play---the Rangers could manage only a pair of goals which counted---and one that did not---during regulation against Steve Mason, who entered play with a bloated 3.47 goals against average this season. But it took just 22 seconds into the overtime period for the Rangers to score the decisive goal.
Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto led a rush into the Columbus zone and engaged in a slick passing sequence before Del Zotto found a wide open Derek Stepan across the crease. Stepan calmly deposited his 12th goal past a flailing Mason for the game-winner.
Ironically overtime was needed because Nash tied the game at 2-2 with just 1:33 left to play in the third period. With Columbus having pulled Mason for an extra attacker, the Blue Jackets' Jeff Carter won an offensive zone face off before Nash sent a knuckler from right wing past Henrik Lundqvist for his 19th goal of the season. Nash now has eight goals in nine career games against the Rangers.
Brad Richards opened the scoring off a neat give-and-go with Carl Hagelin at 17:49 of the first period for his 18th goal of the season. After Derick Brassard tied the game with a power play goal at 5:26 of the second period, Artem Anisimov put the Rangers up 2-1 by converting the rebound of a Dan Girardi shot that caromed off the back glass at 13:13 of the middle stanza.
The Rangers thought they had scored what would have been a hugely important goal at the second period buzzer when Michael Del Zotto zipped a shot from the slot past Mason, but a video review confirmed that the puck crossed the goal line just after the clock officially ran down to 0.00 seconds.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 of 23 shots to earn his 28th victory of the season in goal for the Rangers, who are 9-2-1 in their last 12 games.