By: Chad Lynch
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
On Tuesday night, the Phoenix Coyotes wrapped up a five-game road trip with a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The first period got off to a bit of a rocky start for the Coyotes as defenseman Zbynek Michalek was sent to the penalty box, just 28 seconds into the game for holding. On their first penalty killing assignment of the night, the Coyotes were able to keep Columbus from taking the early lead as they limited the successful offensive zone passes form the Blue Jackets until they could return to full strength.
The Coyotes would take another penalty five minutes later when Jamie Rivers was called for slashing and while Phoenix would be able to withstand the Blue Jackets power play attack for most of the infraction, the final six seconds of the penalty would be the toughest as Columbus blue liner Adam Foote was able to squeeze into the slot and one-time a shot over the glove of Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph for a 1-0 Blue Jackets lead.
Phoenix forward Mike Comrie had a great chance to even the score midway through the period when he skated in on Columbus netminder Pascal LcClaire from the left side and snapped a shot on goal, but was ultimately unable to get the puck into the net and the Coyotes remained behind by a goal.
At 10:57 of the first, the Blue Jackets added to their lead when a scramble in front of the Phoenix net saw the Coyotes unable to clear out traffic and it wound up costing them as veteran Sergei Fedorov was allowed to tap the puck under the leg pads of Joseph for his eighth goal of the year and a 2-0 Columbus advantage.
The Coyotes displayed a brilliant defensive feat with four minutes lefts in the period when Nikolai Zherdev tried a trio of moves in the Coyotes zone to get around defenseman Keith Ballard before the Coyotes defenseman finally rode Zherdev off the puck and quelled the Blue Jackets rush.
Phoenix refused to enter the first intermission trailing by a pair of goals and with seven seconds left in the first, that was no longer a concern as Coyotes forward Mike Johnson sent a wrist shot from the right side that went off the glove of LeClaire and into the net to make it a 2-1 game after 20-minutes of play.
Right off the face-off in the second period, the Blue Jackets created another scoring opportunity as a lead pass sent Rick Nash into the Coyotes zone where he fired a shot from the right side of the net, but was stopped by "Cujo" to keep the score at 2-1.
The Coyotes hard work and refusal to give up would pay off at 6:12 of the second when Steven Reiprecht's shot beat LeClaire for his 15th goal of the year and tied the game at 2-2.
With 55-seconds gone in a holding-the-stick penalty to Columbus' Jody Shelly, fellow Blue Jacket Sergei Fedorov was sent to the box at 9:40 of the period for holding, giving the Coyotes 1:05 of five-on-three hockey. As it turned out, the Coyotes would only need 11-seconds of the two-man advantage to take their first lead of the game as Jamie River's pass to Shane Doan was blasted on a one-timer, past LeClaire's glove hand for a 3-2 Coyotes lead.
After taking the lead, the Coyotes still had 1:49 of power play time to work with and while they wouldn't add to their lead, they did keep the pressure on the Columbus net and appeared to cause some discomfort to LeClaire as he had trouble gripping his stick with his blocker hand once the puck was eventually cleared from the Blue Jackets zone.
Columbus nearly tied the goal on two separate occasions in the final minutes of the seconds period as Nikolai Zherdev's shot from the slot, beat Joseph, but rang off the goal post and stayed in play. Then, seconds later, Rick Nash pulled Joseph across the net from right to left sending the Coyotes goalie onto his stomach where he then made a unbelievable glove save on Nash's backhand shot to keep Phoenix on top 3-2.
In the final seconds of the period, Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Picard hit Comrie with an intentional knee, eliciting a response from Comrie that saw the two head to the box for kneeing and cross-checking respectively. The pair of penalties took effect in the second, but would carry over in to the third period as the Coyotes skated off the ice with a 3-2 lead after 40-minutes of play.
Early in the third period, Joseph was forced to made a big stop at the left side of the net at 2:56 of the period to keep Columbus from extending a pressure situation around the net and preserving the 3-2 Phoenix lead.
The Coyotes defense in their own zone helped open up ice in the offensive zone minutes later as a scrum in the Blue Jackets crease allowed Fredrik Sjostrom to poke a loose puck under the leg of LeClaire for his fifth tally of the season and give Phoenix a 4-2 advantage.
With just under 11-minutes to play in the third, the Coyotes went back on the penalty kill when Shane Doan was called for a delay-of-game after his clearing attempt from within his own zone, went over the glass and into the stands. The Phoenix penalty killers did a great job of keeping the pressure off Joseph and kept the Blue Jackets form mounting a serious offensive attack as Doan return to the ice at the conclusion of his penalty.
Columbus continued to struggle to get pressure on the Coyotes net as the period wound down and with just under two minutes to play; the Blue Jackets pulled their goalie in favor of the extra attacker. The strategy didn't backfire on Columbus for nearly a minute but with 53-seconds remaining, Comrie was able to get to the front of the empty net and poke the puck into the goal for his 24th goal of the season and seal the lid on the Coyotes 5-2 win over Columbus.