A highly unlikely scenario played out at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday night. Two of the NHL's lowest scoring offenses combined for five goals in the first period but the Coyotes dominated the third period and defeated the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3.
“Goals were few and far between on the road trip and then they came in abundance early,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “We expected a tighter game but when that happens you have to adapt. There was a lot of sloppy play in the first two periods, not a lot of chances either way, but we had a real strong third.”
When it comes to putting the biscuit in the basket the Blue Jackets and Coyotes are near the bottom of the NHL. Going into Saturday night's contest Phoenix was 23rd in scoring with 2.47 goals for game and Columbus was 28th with 2.14 GF/G. But statistical averages are nice on spreadsheets but they play the game on ice and not on paper.
The Coyotes rushed out of the gates to a 3-2 lead after the first period and scored two goals on their first three shots. Coyotes forward David Moss scored his second goal of the season and tied up the game 1-1 at the 5:30 mark of the first. Within 90-seconds Radim Vrbata gave Phoenix a 2-1 lead on a goal assisted by Martin Hanzal and Steve Sullivan.
Not to be shown up by their hosts the Blue Jackets tied it up within 60-seconds. Columbus forward Matt Calvert scored his second goal of the season and with 12:00 left the game was tied at 2-2. In the closing minutes of the first the Coyotes Kyle Chipchura notched his first goal of the year to give Phoenix a 3-2 lead in the closing minutes of the opening stanza.
The scoring outburst of the first period seemed to be a distant memory in the ensuing 20-minutes. The only offensive output in the second period was a single goal by the Blue Jackets Derek MacKenzie that evened the score at 3-3.
“We started out OK,” Coyotes forward David Moss said. “The second period we had too many turnovers and gave them some life but in the third we got back to playing the way we have to play. Get the puck centered. The power play came up with a huge goal and it's a big two points.”
Phoenix forward Martin Hanzal broke up the tie with a power play goal at the 8:18 mark of the final period. Hanzal was assisted by Keith Yandle and Steve Sullivan. Hanzal added another goal, against an empty net, to close the door on the Blue Jackets.
“We looked at it as a must win,” Chipchura said. “Each game is important with the condensed schedule. You can't afford to give games away and you can't afford to get on slides.”
Phoenix has won five out of their last seven games and Saturday night's win improved their season tally to 7-6-2. The Coyotes have Sunday to rest and will host the Calgary Flames on Monday, February 18. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. (MT)