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Rick Nash has made a career scoring goals against the Phoenix Coyotes (with one memorable tally mixed in there), and he continued that torrid pace tonight in Glendale.
The Blue Jackets captain scored a pair of goals – the second one sure to be added to his career highlight reel – and helped Columbus earn its second straight road win by a 5-2 final in front of 13,579 at Jobing.com Arena. Coupled with Thursday night’s victory in Denver against the Avalanche, the Blue Jackets have won back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 22-25, 2011, a span of 86 games.
Steve Mason turned in his second straight stellar effort between the pipes and kept the Coyotes at bay for the most of the night. Phoenix’s second consecutive loss put them in a tenuous position atop the Pacific Division, as their lead stayed at two points over second-place San Jose who was in action late Saturday night.
Nash opened the scoring at 16:21 of the opening period, and was the recipient of a beautiful backhand pass by Derek MacKenzie with the Blue Jackets killing a penalty. The clearing pass bounced at center ice, Nash blew past Ray Whitney and had a clean look at goalie Mike Smith. Nash went top-shelf from the left wing to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead on yet another shorthanded goal for Columbus.
The captain’s second goal of the evening was a thing of beauty – Derick Brassard hit him with a lead pass at center ice, and with Coyotes defenseman Chris Summers draped all over him, barreled to the net and scored on the backhand for a 2-0 lead at 5:18.
Phoenix responded with a pair of goals 5:31 apart in the second period to even the score at 2-2. Whitney scored from the low left circle at 8:19 on the power play to cut the deficit in half, and Lauri Korpikoski cashed in a rebound at 13:50 to bring Phoenix back to level par.
But the Blue Jackets’ response was even better. Nikita Nikitin’s wrist shot midway through the third period deflected in off Michal Roszival at 9:12 to give Columbus a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish. Brassard buried a centering from Nash (who was on his stomach) at 13:44 to put a bow on another road victory, and Colton Gillies scored into the empty net with 59.1 to play.
Nikitin’s second consecutive game-winning goal proved to be the turning point in tonight’s game. The Coyotes had all the momentum after tying the game in the second period and came out in the final 20 minutes as the more determined club. Nikitin took the wind out of their sails with his fourth goal of the season, and just a few minutes later, Brassard delivered the knockout punch.
The Blue Jackets are now 4-1-1 in their last six road games after going 0-6-1 their previous seven road games. Columbus has scored shorthanded goals in three of the last four games after going the previous 35 games without a shorthanded goal.
Nash has shorthanded goals in two of the last four games after scoring his 23rd goal of the season tonight. The shorthanded goals come after he went 205 games without one (had shorthanded goals in back-toback games Oct. 17-20, 2009). He added his second goal in the second period to give him goals in five of the last seven games after being held to one goal the previous 10 games. In 32 career games against Phoenix, he has 17-16-33.
Derek MacKenzie has points in two of the last three games after recording an assist on Nash’s goal. He has 1-1-2 the last three games after being held pointless the previous six games and to 0-1-1 the previous 17 outings. The assist was his first in eight games as he last had a helper Feb. 12 vs. Anaheim.
John Moore picked up his first assist in 12 games with a helper on Nash’s first goal. His last assist was Feb. 3 at Anaheim.
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.
Nikitin has goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his NHL career after scoring his fourth of the season tonight. He has goals in three of the last seven games after being held goalless the previous 20 games. He has points in eight of the last 11 games, registering 2-6-8 during that stretch, after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games. He has set career highs in goals (4), assists (18), points (22) and games played (44).
vs. Phoenix Coyotes
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, Ohio
Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com