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Coyotes end road trip with win vs. Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Arizona Coyotes are going home just as they are getting the hang of playing on the road.

Arizona defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday for its second straight win to complete an eight-game road trip 3-3-2.

The Coyotes (19-26-6) took a 3-1 lead into the third period and played a smart, defensive game. Although Columbus was outshot 12-2 in the third, it did not have any prime scoring opportunities and did not get a shot during a late power play.

"We got a lot of practice on faceoffs (28) in the third period," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "That might have been the most faceoffs I’ve ever seen. We just wanted to play a solid road game, finish off the road trip right."

Columbus (21-25-3) wanted to start strong against the tired Coyotes, but instead was outworked for much of the first and trailed 1-0 on a goal by Lucas Lessio eight minutes into the period.

"Some guys were ready to go but we didn’t have enough weren’t ready to start the game," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "You could tell that the first 10 minutes."

Yet, the Blue Jackets were able to tie the score 40 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal by James Wisniewski.

"We found a way to tie the game but we’ve got to find a way to be ready to go from the start," Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky said.

The Blue Jackets had killed 16 straight penalties over the previous 15 periods, but the Coyotes scored twice in less than three minutes with the man advantage in the second period to take a 3-1 lead.

"We worked to draw some penalties then our power play capitalized on it," Tippett said. "That was the difference in the game."

After Wisniewski’s sixth goal of the season, he went to the penalty box 1:16 later and the Coyotes made the Blue Jackets pay.

Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who played in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Columbus on Jan. 25, scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle with help from a Doan screen at 2:32.

It was Ekman-Larsson’s 15th goal, which leads NHL defensemen and ties his career best set in 80 games last season.

“They won some battles in front of our net and we didn’t win enough battles in front of their net.” Dubinsky said.

Shane Doan made it 3-1 at 5:19 after backhanding a rebound through the pads of rookie goalie Anton Forsberg, who made 25 saves in his third NHL start.

"He certainly wasn’t the issue," Richards said of Forsberg. "He made some big saves. He kept us in it and at least gave us a chance to get into it."

Arizona goaltender Mike Smith preserved the lead the rest of the way. Smith made 30 saves and rebounded nicely from his most recent start Saturday at the Ottawa Senators when he allowed five goals on 20 shots before being pulled early in the third period.

Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder capped the scoring on an empty-net goal with 2:11 left in the third period.

"We got off to a good start," Tippett said. "Everybody was involved. Our kids played well again. [Smith] played real strong in net for us. The power play got us a couple of goals and we ended up with a good road trip."

The Coyotes’ fourth line got the first goal with Lessio jamming in a rebound at the right of the net, barely beating teammate Brendan Shinnimin to the puck after B.J. Crombeen had the initial shot.

Lessio's second career goal came in his 14th game this season and 17th in the NHL. He also scored Jan. 20 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Shinnimin had the secondary assist for his first NHL point in his sixth game.

"Anytime you’re at the end of a long road trip like this you’ve got to find ways to dig deep and I thought we did," Arizona defenseman Keith Yandle said.

The Coyotes return home with renewed optimism to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

"It’s very important to find a way to build on it," Doan said. "We've got to win our next game. That’s all we can worry about."

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have lost three straight games and move closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings than a Stanley Cup Playoff berth.

"I don’t think anybody in here is thinking we’re going to quit," Wisniewski said. "The organization isn’t thinking that, but we’re definitely in a big hole."

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