By Nick Stoico
The big question heading into Friday night's game between the Rangers and the Blue Jackets was whether Rick Nash would be welcomed warmly or booed in his first game back in Columbus since being traded in 2012.
The initial reception was a little icy, as the Rangers winger was booed after being introduced in the starting lineup:
Heavy boos as Rick Nash is announced among the #NYR starters here in Columbus
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) March 21, 2014
It didn't get much better when the game started, either.
More boos than I expected when Rick Nash touches the puck. A roar when Johansen slams into him and knocks him over.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) March 21, 2014
Nash now booed loudly everytime he touches the puck. Cheers when he's knocked down.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) March 21, 2014
From there, however, things took a turn for the better when the Blue Jackets played a video tribute in the first period, honoring the former first-overall pick's nine years with the team. The crowed of 18,153 cheered Nash and gave him a standing ovation.
The sentiment was short-lived, however, especially by those on the ice:
With about three minutes left in the second, Nash broke into the offensive zone and ran into Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. The puck slid into the net, but the goal was immediately waved off. Bobrovsky, who'd been poking at Nash all game, swatted the winger's stick away, and Nash retaliated with a shove before being tackled to the ice by a gang of Blue Jackets skaters.
At the third period puck-drop, Nash brought the fans to their feet again by dropping the gloves with Matt Calvert. When the dust settled and the final buzzer sounded, Nash finished the night with seven SOG, nine PIM, and more importantly, two big points for the Rangers in the Metropolitan standings.
Following the game, Nash said he still loved the Columbus fans despite the jeers (he estimated the crowd to be about 90 percent boos and 10 percent cheers). He explained the interaction that took place with Bobrovsky and said it was a fun game but was happy to hear the final horn.
"It was a great game, it was a lot of fun," Nash said. "But I'm definitely glad it's over."
Here is the Nash tribute video produced by the Blue Jackets: