COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Rick Nash scored and assisted on Derick Brassard’s go-ahead goal in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 3-1 win over Colorado on Friday night, spoiling Peter Forsberg’s return with the Avalanche.
The loss was the sixth in a row for the Avalanche, who dropped to 11-2-0 when leading after a period. Forsberg played 22 shifts totaling 17 1/2 minutes and had one shot on goal after joining the team for his first NHL game in three years.
Nash converted an assist from Jake Voracek to tie the game in the second period, then stole the puck and fed Brassard for the go-ahead goal. Mathieu Garon was strong in goal with 31 saves for Colorado, and Derek MacKenzie added an empty-netter.
Former Columbus draft pick Philippe Dupuis scored for the Avalanche, who have been outscored 21-7 during their losing streak. But the bright spot was unquestionably Forsberg.
The 37-year-old former Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s MVP had foot problems when he stepped away from Colorado after the 2007-08 season. After recovering, he played last year in his native Sweden before returning to the Avalanche on Jan. 22. He signed a contract on Sunday and had to iron out some immigration problems before hitting the ice against Columbus.
The game matched two teams with almost identical records struggling to remain in the Western Conference race. Both came into the showdown a few points out of the final qualifying spot.
The Avalanche have long been the Blue Jackets’ nemesis. Columbus improved to just 9-26-1-1 against Colorado, which had won the last six meetings — the last three by 5-1 scores.
The Blue Jackets overcame a 1-0 lead with two goals in the second, both off big plays by Nash. At the 7:19 mark, he took a nifty cross-ice pass from Voracek and fired it into the net from the bottom of the left circle for his 25th goal of the year.
Later in a chippy, fight-filled period, Colorado goalie Peter Budaj settled the puck behind the net for defenseman John-Michael Liles. But just as Liles began to skate away with it, Nash forced a turnover and center the puck to Brassard, who skated laterally while waiting for Budaj to slide out of position. He then wristed a shot past the goalie for his 14th of the year.
Garon, making his first start since Jan. 18, won for the first time since Dec. 21 against Calgary. He was brilliant when he needed to be, turning away several quality scoring chances in the first period. With 1:30 left, he blocked aside Milan Hejduk’s scoring attempt.
The Avalanche scored first, thanks to a gift from the Blue Jackets.
R.J. Umberger’s pass in the neutral zone was intercepted in stride by Dupuis, who had no one close to him as he swooped in for what resembled a shootout attempt. Dupuis had room to avoid defenseman Kris Russell’s stick and beat Garon high for his fourth goal of the season.
Dupuis was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the fourth round in 2003 but never got a chance with the big club. Acquired in a trade from Columbus on Jan. 22, 2008, he played most of last year with the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate in Cleveland, the Lake Erie Monsters.
NOTES: With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, nine teams had scouts at the game. … Adam Foote, a former Columbus captain who asked to be traded back to the Avalanche, was a scratch with a leg injury. He was loudly booed when the scratches were announced to a crowd of 16,408. … C Derek MacKenzie played his 100th career NHL game for the Blue Jackets.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)