Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith – who had dropped his previous three starts – did not want to give up the net for a crucial game tonight against the Blue Jackets. He reportedly went to his coaching staff during the day and asked to start on back-to-back nights in a game the Coyotes sorely needed.
With two quick strikes and all the momentum, the Blue Jackets chased Smith less than four minutes into the game.
R.J. Umberger got it started with his 11th goal of the season just 31 seconds into the first period, and Jack Johnson followed with his first goal as a Blue Jacket at 3:54. Columbus withstood a feverish third-period surge by the Coyotes to win their third consecutive game, 3-2 before 10,915 at Nationwide Arena. Johnson was the game’s first star with a goal and an assist, playing a game-high 27:32 and frequently got the Blue Jackets out of danger in their defensive end.
Smith was pulled in favor of backup Jason LaBarbera after Johnson’s goal – set up by a pretty feed from Vinny Prospal – and the Coyotes could not recover. Off a neutral zone turnover nearly 12 minutes into the first period, Ray Whitney broke in on a 2-on-1 with Antoine Vermette, and the recently-acquired former Blue Jacket deposited the cross-ice pass to cut Columbus’ lead in half.
The Blue Jackets got the biggest goal of the night from their third line, which has been one of their strongest during the winning streak. Derek MacKenzie and Derek Dorsett converged to the net along with Colton Gillies early in the second period, and as Dorsett was bumped into LaBarbera, MacKenzie picked up a loose puck and went top-shelf for a 3-1 lead at 3:02. The Coyotes and head coach Dave Tippett argued to no avail, as it appeared Dorsett was helped into the goaltender along the way.
Keith Yandle’s slap shot late in the second period brought the Coyotes within 3-2 at 16:26, but Phoenix could not find a third goal. They fell to 0-3-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and have lost four consecutive games.
The Blue Jackets let a parade to the penalty box determine their fate in tonight’s game, and when Aaron Johnson was sent off for hooking at 3:18 of the third period, it gave the Coyotes a 20-second two-man advantage after over 90 seconds of 4-on-3 power play time, which had been successfully killed off.
Ryan Russell and MacKenzie were huge for Columbus on the 5-on-3, and Mason made the key stops when called upon. The penalty kill rose to the occasion and stunted any notion of a Coyotes comeback.
Johnson has points in back-to-back games after registering a goal and an assist tonight. His goal snapped a 15-game goalless skid as he last scored Jan. 23 vs. Ottawa as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. The assists in back-to-back games come after he went seven games without an assist. The multi-point outing was his first since Jan. 12 vs. Dallas, a span of 21 games.
Mason stopped 38-of-40 shots to earn his third-straight win for the first time since posting four-straight wins Feb. 13-25, 2011, a span of 50 games. He improved to 6-3-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .921 save percentage his last 10 games after going 1-7-1 with a 3.73 GAA and .880 SV% his previous 10 games.
Brassard has points in four-straight games after recording an assist on Umberger’s goal. He has 1-4-5 during that stretch, while collecting points in seven of the last nine games (3-6-9). He has 10-16-26 the last 34 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season. In 15 career games against the Coyotes, he has 6-7-13.
Umberger has points in back-to-back games after scoring his 11th goal of the season tonight. The goal was his first in five games as he last scored Feb. 21 vs. San Jose. He has collected 8-12-20 the last 35 games after being held to 3-4-7 the first 26 games of the season. In 16 career games against Phoenix, he has 4-5-9.
Brassard snapped a five-game goalless skid with his 12th of the season tonight. He added an assist on the night to give him points in three-straight games. He also has points in six of the last eight (3-5-8) and has recorded 10-15-25 the last 33 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season. In 14 career games against the Coyotes, he has 6-6-12.
Prospal has points in nine of the last 16 games after picking up an assist on Johnson’s goal. He has 2-10-12 during that stretch after being held pointless the previous nine games. In 23 career games against the Coyotes, he has 3-14-17.
Gillies has points in back-to-back games after recording an assist on MacKenzie’s goal. It was his first assist in 12 games, as he last had a helper Feb. 7 vs. Minnesota. He snapped a 13-game pointless skid with a goal Mar. 3 at Phoenix.
vs. Los Angeles Kings
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com