COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The horrible start to the season now seems a distant, foggy memory for the New York Rangers, who are suddenly one of the hottest clubs in the NHL.
Left winger Carl Hagelin scored two goals and right winger Ryan Callahan and defenseman Ryan McDonagh each had a goal and an assist, leading the Rangers to a 4-2 win over the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night in Nationwide Arena.
Less than 24 hours after routing Pittsburgh at home, the Rangers won their third straight road game and the fifth of six overall. Rookie goaltender Cam Talbot made 31 saves.
"We're playing with a purpose, we're playing like a team on the same page, and we're playing like we're confident," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "When you think back to where we were a couple of weeks ago, yeah, it's a much better feeling for us."
The Blue Jackets got goals from defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray while losing their fifth straight game.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, back in the net after a two-game break, made 30 saves for Columbus.
The Columbus dressing room remained closed longer than usual after the game, as coach Todd Richards tore into the team.
"I want to say that was embarrassing hockey," Richards said. "Embarrassing hockey. To me, that's losing hockey the way we played. We got exactly what we deserved. It could have been 7-1 going into the third period but our goalie was great.
"Not enough battle. Not enough compete. I'm really disappointed. It's got to change."
The Rangers and Blue Jackets made two huge trades since they last met Feb. 9, 2012, so this game was a reunion of sorts in both directions.
It was a triumphant return to Nationwide Arena for center Derick Brassard, right winger Derek Dorsett and defenseman John Moore, who were sent from Columbus to New York in a trade last March that brought right winger Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets.
It was only more frustration for centers Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, who were traded from New York to Columbus in the deal that sent Rick Nash to the Rangers.
"I'm happy of course, but I'm just exhausted," Brassard said. "It was a very strange feeling, and I'm sure all the other guys felt that way."
Asked if there was "money on the board" -- and aged-old hockey tradition where money is promised by players and donated to charity if the team wins -- Brassard smiled.
"A lot," he said. "Yeah, a lot."
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead only 4:16 into the game when Hagelin found space in the middle of the ice off the rush and simply tapped home a centering feed from Callahan.
The Blue Jackets tied it 1-1 later in the period when Tyutin -- a former Rangers defenseman -- carried the puck into the slot and beat Talbot.
The Rangers scored twice during a 21-shot second period to push the lead to 3-1, thanks in part to the Blue Jackets.
At 12:44 of the second, Jackets center Mark Letestu inexplicably flipped the puck off his backhand in the direction of Bobrovsky, and the puck found a gap between Bobrovsky and the near post. The puck trickled over the line to make it 3-1 Rangers as Letestu buried his head between his knees in frustration. The goal was credited to Hagelin, the last Ranger to touch it.
Before the groans subsided, though, the Jackets made it 3-2, scoring only 48 seconds after the own goal. Murray, a precocious rookie, fired the puck through a crowd, such that Talbot didn't see it.
The Blue Jackets could get no closer, however.
McDonagh fired home an empty-net goal in the final seconds to cap the scoring.
NOTES: Thursday's game was supposed to mark the return of LW Rick Nash to Nationwide Arena, but the former Blue Jackets captain has been sidelined for more than a month by a severe concussion. His return is still weeks away, according to the New York Post. Nash spent 10 years with the Blue Jackets -- the final 4 1/2 as captain -- and owns all of the team's meaningful offensive records. ... Blue Jackets LW Nick Foligno was back in the lineup after stepping away from the club for two days to deal with a family illness.