GLENDALE, Ariz. – Rick Nash certainly isn’t brooding after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to grant his wish to be traded. Quite the opposite.
The powerful, fast left wing had two goals and a spectacular assist to lead the Blue Jackets past the suddenly struggling Phoenix Coyotes, 5-2 on Saturday night.
“Just Rick being Rick,” said teammate Derick Brassard, the recipient of Nash’s assist.
Nikita Nikitin and Brassard scored in the third period after the Coyotes rallied from a two-goal deficit to make it 2-2. Colton Gillies got an empty-net goal to cap the scoring for the Blue Jackets, who have won two in a row on the road for the first time this season. They beat Colorado 2-0 on Thursday night.
“It’s been two hard buildings coming in to get wins from two teams that are fighting for the playoffs,” Nash said. “I’m proud of the guys. We stuck with it. Two road wins in a row, we’ve got to bring this momentum back home.”
Ray Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski scored for Phoenix. Shane Doan assisted on both goals.
Nash has four goals in his last four games and six in his last seven.
“I remember at the trade deadline his name showing up in the paper,” Brassard said. “He showed up that night or the night after and he’s just competing and he scored a goal and he was just like all over the place. It shows a lot for our team. He’s our captain, he’s our best player. Hopefully he’s going to stick around us next year. I don’t know what’s going to happen but from what I see right now he’s just a guy who wants to play and show us the way.”
After going 11-0-1 in February, the Coyotes stormed into first place in the Pacific Division only to lose two in a row, both at home.
“We’re not good enough,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “The emotional engagement that we can bring in short minutes, why can’t we have that the whole time? That’s puzzling for our group right now.”
Doan said the Coyotes “recognize we don’t have two games to give away.”
“We have to go back to what was making us successful the previous 11,” he said. “We were on the right side of pucks, we were doing the little things, we were blocking shots, we were getting the puck out at the blue, we weren’t turning it over, we were being a little more disciplined and at the same time we were finding ways to win.”
Nash’s assist came when he made a diving steal of the puck from Radim Vrbata, at the same time knocking it to Brassaard, who had an open look at the net for the goal that put the Blue Jackets up 4-2 with 6:16 to go.
“He’s a big-time player in a big-time game,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said about Nash. “He obviously had a huge impact, not only when he scored, but some of the plays, a couple of really good defensive plays he made.”
Steve Mason made 30 saves for the Blue Jackets. Mike Smith had 21 for the Coyotes.
Nash put Columbus up 1-0 with a short-handed goal with 3:39 left in the first period. He took a pass from Derek McKenzie and broke away from everyone, then flipped the puck past Smith. It was the second short-handed goal Phoenix has allowed in two games.
Nash’s second goal, with 14:42 left in the second period, came when he barrelled into the Coyotes’ goal, slamming into Smith after being tripped by Phoenix’s Chris Summers and knocking the net loose in the process. Replays showed the puck crossed the line before Nash did and after a review, the goal stood to make it 2-0.
“I know the guy’s right on my back and the guy kind of tripped me,” Nash said. “He got my back foot and I tucked it in just before I ran into him (Smith). I said to Smith I was sorry. I couldn’t avoid it, though.”
Phoenix broke through after a fight between Summers and Columbus’ Colton Gillies. Both got offsetting penalties for fighting, but Gillies also was called for roughing. With the man advantage, Whitney took a pass from Doan and knocked it in on the power play for his 20th goal of the season, cutting the lead to 2-1 with 11:41 left in the second.
Moments later, Mason deflected Doan’s strong shot, but Korpikoski was there to knock the rebound in and it was tied 2-2 with 6:10 still to go in the period.
But what looked like another trademark comeback for Phoenix fizzled when Nikitin scored with 10:48 left in the third. Then the Coyotes’ crucial turnover set up the fourth goal.
Notes: The teams play again Tuesday night in Columbus. … Phoenix C Gilbert Brule returned after missing four games after taking injuring his head against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21. … The Blue Jackets have won two overall for only the third time this season.