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Blue Jackets hold off Coyotes 4-3 @NHLdotcom
Derick Brassard helped to make Todd Richards' coaching debut in Columbus a happy one.

Brassard had a goal and an assist as the Blue Jackets held off the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on Friday night, giving Richards a win in his first game behind the bench at Nationwide Arena.

Rick Nash also scored and rookies Tomas Kubalik and Ryan Russell each had their first NHL goals for the Jackets, who are 1-1-0 under Richards. He took over on Monday when Columbus fired second-year coach Scott Arniel. Curtis Sanford had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets, who had lost two in a row and four of five -- including a 5-2 loss at Chicago on Tuesday in Richards' first game.

"We did a lot of good things tonight," said Richards, who was let go last summer after coaching Minnesota for two seasons." The guys dug in and found a way to win a game."

Brassard made a big play defensively by blocking a shot in the final seconds as the Coyotes pressed for the tying goal after pulling goaltender Jason LaBarbera for an extra attacker -- an effort that impressed his new coach.

"I think what framed it all was Brassard's block at the end. … He made a block where he sacrifices himself. He made the play we needed him to make."

Brassard was just excited to be on the ice at crunch time.

"At the end, when they pulled their goalie, I was in there," he said. "For me, it's a great challenge. I've never been in that situation and I felt when I blocked that shot at the end ... I just felt that I needed to do it for the team. I was just really excited to be there and finish the game."

Lauri Korpikoski had a goal and two assists, Radim Vrbata a goal and an assist and Oliver Ekman-Larsson two assists for the Coyotes, who have lost four road games in a row and were coming off shootout losses at New York on Tuesday and Detroit on Thursday. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin also scored to give the Coyotes an early lead.

The Jackets played a much more free-flowing style than they had under Arniel, though the new coach was reluctant to claim any credit.

"I don't know how much of that was created by me," Richards said. "I think sometimes it's a simple thing like change. As a coach you come in -- it's a different voice, a different way of talk. I don't know how much is directly related to me.

"I'm sure to a lot [of the players], it feels like a new start, a new beginning. I think when you get that, you're a little more optimistic."

Columbus, which led 2-1 after one period, took a two-goal lead by scoring in the first and last two  minutes of the second period.

Russell made it 3-1 when he scored at 1:52 on a wraparound off a rebound.

Phoenix cut the lead to a goal at 8:48 when Ekman-Larsson left a drop pass for Vrbata, whose centering pass into a crowd went off the left skate of Korpikoski as he rushed the net.

Sanford smothered a redirect by Shane Doan on a Coyotes power play shortly before Brassard pushed the lead to 4-2 at 18:36. Brassard took the puck and skated in a circle from the boards near the Blue Jackets bench to the high slot before wristing a hard, high shot past LaBarbera for his sixth of the season.

It was his first multiple-point game in three weeks.

"I just had fun on the ice. When I have fun and I can play my game, I think I can be pretty effective," said Brassard, who struggled under Arniel and had seen his ice time reduced. "That's what I did tonight. I didn't do anything different. I felt like I had trust from my teammates and coach. I just started to play my game and everything went fine."

The Coyotes pulled to 4-3 at 11:12 of the third period when Korpikoski's long stretch pass found Vrbata behind the Columbus defense. He came in all alone on Sanford and roofed a backhander for his team-high 22nd goal.

Phoenix's Ray Whitney, a former Blue Jacket, had two scoring chances in the final seconds. He had a shot in close that was deflected by Sanford. He then tried to bank the puck in from behind the goal cage but it went just wide.

"We pushed hard. We threw everything out there," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We were looking for that one break we needed to even it up, and it didn't come.
"We had some people do some good things. It just wasn't enough."

Aucoin got the Coyotes off to a fast start when he stepped over the blue line and into a pass from Daymond Langkow for a one-timer that beat Sanford at 1:49.
But the Blue Jackets tied it when Kubalik crashed the net and was rewarded when Aaron Johnson hit him with a backhanded centering pass that he was able to redirect past LaBarbera at 5:32.

Just 1:35 later, Nash circled in the Phoenix zone before his hard wrist shot from near the top of the right circle eluded a screened LaBarbera.

"We got off to a good start," Tippett said. "But [we made] a couple of bad reads to give up the lead early, and we chased the game the rest of the way."

Columbus forward R.J. Umberger missed the game due to a concussion, ending his franchise record for consecutive games played at 288. He had played in 291 straight games, the fifth-longest active streak in the NHL.

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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