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Blue Jackets top Coyotes, end five-game losing streak

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On a night when defense and goaltending took a vacation, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 times on their first 36 combined shots and entertained almost everyone at Gila River Arena.

Everyone, that is, except Arizona coach Dave Tippett and Columbus coach John Tortorella, who viewed the Blue Jackets' 7-5 win on Thursday more like a 2 ½-hour visit to a dentist's office filled with red lights.

"You wanted entertaining. I don't have any other word for it," Tortorella said. "I was not entertained, but I'm sure you guys were."

And his team won.

Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson each had a goal and two assists to help Blue Jackets end a five-game losing streak with a flourish. Columbus scored six times on its first 14 shots and set a season high for goals.

"That's not the way we want to do it every night, but we scored some key goals in key moments and we'll take it," said Saad, who opened the scoring 58 seconds into the game and set up Nick Foligno late in the second period for a breakaway goal that put Columbus ahead for good.

"You never want to get into a shootout like that. It was a wild night. I'm glad it's over and I'm glad we won."

Matt Calvert, David Clarkson and Brandon Dubinsky also scored for Columbus, which has two of its 12 wins and 13 of its 83 goals against the Coyotes.

The Blue Jackets (12-19-3) did it all without top center Ryan Johansen, who was a healthy scratch, and top defensemen David Savard and Jack Johnson, who were out with injuries.

Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves to get the win. He survived a third-period collision with Arizona's Max Domi that knocked off his helmet and allowed the back of his head to hit the ice.

In all, a total of 20 players had at least one point.

"I'm sure both coaches were saying the same things in between each period. You could tell it was one of those games in all positions - goaltending, defense, forwards - you could tell the last shot was going to win," Tortorella said. "We have certainly played better than we did tonight and found ways to lose. We found a way to win and that was encouraging."

Tobias Rieder had two goals and Antoine Vermette, Viktor Tikhonov, Jordan Martinook also scored for the Coyotes (14-15-2), who had been 5-0-1 in their past six home games.

Anders Lindback made six saves on 10 shots before he was pulled in the second period. He was replaced by Louis Domingue, who made eight saves on 10 shots.

"We were a poor team with the puck, we didn't defend very well and we had poor goaltending," Tippett said. "That leads to five, six, seven goals a night, and you're never going to win in this League like that."

Tippett's final words summarized his view of the night. "It's just disgusting," he said.

The Blue Jackets, who had scored two goals or less four times during their losing streak, scored on each of their first two shots.

Saad picked up a loose puck off the stick of Wennberg and had all kinds of time to beat Lindback for his 11th goal.

Just 1:28 later, Calvert made it 2-0 on a sloppy play by Arizona in its end. Oliver Ekman-Larsson couldn't handle Kevin Connauton's dump-in around the boards and Atkinson found a trailing Calvert between the circles with traffic in front. Calvert had plenty of time to beat Lindback over the glove and under the crossbar with a snap shot.

"To come out and play like that against a team that was desperate … we weren't ready," Tippett said.

The Coyotes did regroup. They cut the deficit in half at 8:51 when Vermette lost control of a wraparound attempt but intercepted Dubinsky's clearing attempt and roofed a shot over McElhinney

Arizona kept coming during a wild, six-goal second period.

Tikhonov tied the game 2-2 on the power play at 8:15 when he cleaned up a Michael Stone shot after good rebound work by Martinook. Tikhonov's goal was his first since being re-signed by Arizona as a free agent on Dec. 6 and his first in the NHL since March 21, 2009, when he scored in his first tour with the Coyotes against the Vancouver Canucks.

Ten seconds later, Vermette's pretty backhand pass off the side boards found Rieder in the high slot and he beat McElhinney with a stick-side shot to the top corner for his seventh goal at 8:25 to give the Coyotes the lead for the first time.

But less than two minutes later, Arizona was behind again.

Saad put a backhand pass on Wennberg's stick in the crease and he banked the puck off Lindback and into the net at 9:10 to tie the game. Columbus went back in front when Atkinson beat Lindback between the pads with a wrist shot from the right circle at 10:23,

It was the fifth goal in a span of 4:06 and sent Lindback, now the starter with Mike Smith out for 8-10 weeks following abdominal surgery this week, to the bench.

Neither team was done. Martinook tied the game for the third time at 12:21 when his wraparound try deflected off the skate of Connauton and went past McElhinney.

But Saad picked the pocket of Coyotes captain Shane Doan in the Blue Jackets zone and fired a pass ahead to Foligno, who went in alone on a breakaway and put the puck under Domingue's arm at 17:11 for a 5-4 lead.

"We get ourselves back in the game and our captain goes down, end of a shift, he should get the puck deep. But he turns it over and it winds up in our net," Tippett said. "We can't have plays like that. We're not good enough team to make plays like that, and he should be smart enough to know that."

The goals kept coming early in the third period. Columbus stretched its lead to 6-4 at 2:19 when Clarkson finished off a Hartnell feed a step outside the crease.

But Arizona answered exactly one minute later when Rieder banged home the rebound of a Nicklas Grossmann shot to get the Coyotes close again. It stayed that way until Dubinsky clinched it for Columbus with an empty-net goal at 19:10.

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