GLENDALE, Ariz. – With his arena half-filled with transplant Canadians rooting on the new Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett had even more reason to hope for a good start from his Coyotes in their home opener.
He not only got a good start – he got a good 60 minutes.
Second-year defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson recorded the first two-goal game of his career and Daymond Langkow got the night off to a good start with a goal 34 seconds after the opening faceoff as the old Jets manhandled the new version 4-1 on Saturday night.
The 4 p.m. starting time didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the sold-out crowd at Jobing.com Arena, which appeared split between Coyote loyalists and transplanted Canadians sporting both new and old Jets sweaters. More than an hour before faceoff, fans who have developed an Internet rivalry amid rumors that the financially troubled Coyotes might return to Winnipeg were exchanging unpleasantries to add spice to an already-charged atmosphere.
Langkow, reacquired from Calgary in the off-season, scored on his first shift at home for Phoenix since 2004, and the Coyotes never trailed as the Jets remained winless after three games in their return to the NHL.
"It's a great atmosphere because when you get the visiting fans in there it really puts a burr in your fan's butts," Tippett said. "Our fans did a great job, and we scored early in the game. Believe me -- I had visions of hearing ‘Let's go Jets' a lot more than I heard tonight, so I give our fans a lot of credit."
Ekman-Larsson was 4 years old when the first incarnation of the Jets, left Winnipeg for Phoenix in 1996. But after managing one goal in 48 games as a rookie last season, he has three in the first four games this year for the Coyotes, who are 2-0-1 since a 6-3 shellacking at San Jose last Saturday to open the season.
"It's always fun to score and I feel more comfortable out there," Ekman-Larsson said. "I only had one goal last year, but I'm playing more and I feel better and I'll try to keep it up."
Ray Whitney closed out the Phoenix scoring on the power play in the third period. Shane Doan, the final on-ice link to the old Jets, didn't record his 300th career goal but is off the fastest offensive start of his 16-year NHL career. He had two assists Saturday and now has three goals and seven points during his four-game scoring streak to open the season.
"We wanted to make sure we were good tonight," Doan said. "The whole connection we have with Winnipeg is special, and you want it to be a good memory and not a bad one. It was a great atmosphere all night and we played the kind of game we wanted to play."
Andrew Ladd scored in the final minute of the second period for the Jets, who have been outscored 13-5 in three regulation losses. Winnipeg is now 0-for-13 in the power play this season after failing on all four chances Saturday.
"I'm disappointed and I'm not sure what we're waiting for," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail. (The team's stats) reflects exactly the way we've played. We're better than that but we haven't proved that to ourselves."
Mike Smith stopped 18 shots -- including a penalty shot by Winnipeg's Nik Antropov with 10:50 left to play -- to record his first win as a Coyote. He made several big saves amid sporadic work, including a point-blank chance by Ladd in the second period. After allowing six goals on the first 38 shots he faced this season, Smith has surrendered just two on the next 58.
The Jets were hoping for the same kind of fast start they had Thursday in Chicago. But before Winnipeg fans could reach the second chorus of "Go Jets, Go." Whitney stripped the puck from defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and fed Langkow in front for an easy goal to put the Coyotes in front for good.
"The bad news is we've lost every game we've played so far," Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "The good news is we've got 79 more."
Phoenix doubled its lead midway through the first when Ekman-Larsson ran down a loose puck, flipped it to the net and through a crowd of players in the crease to beat Chris Mason. It became 3-0 at 14:57 of the second when Boyd Gordon took a Taylor Pyatt feed on the rush and dropped a pass that the trailing Ekman-Larsson stepped into and rifled over Mason's glove and into the far top corner.
"His second goal was a heck of a shot," Tippett said. "He not getting himself in trouble and his skill is really showing. I thought our young players were very good again tonight, and we need them to be good players for us to get better."
1 - 0 PHX
2 - 0 PHX
3 - 0 PHX
3 - 1 PHX
4 - 1 PHX
Too many men/ice - bench
Hi stick - double minor