GLENDALE - If Nathan Horton was excited about playing his first game for the Columbus Blue Jackets, his new teammates were beside themselves at the prospect of finally having him on the ice.
Horton's impact was immediate. The Blue Jackets' prize free agent scored his 199th career goal in the second period and R.J. Umberger added a power-play goal midway through the third to give Columbus a 2-0 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday at Jobing.com Arena.
Mike Smith made 29 saves for Phoenix, which was shut out for the first time this season.
Phoenix pounded the Columbus net with 21 of its 34 shots in the third period - tying a season high for shots in a period - but came up empty.
"We didn't play well enough, we didn't execute well enough, we didn't compete hard enough," Phoenix Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "I didn't like a lot about our team tonight."
The Coyotes not only lost the game, but a key member of their team. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson suffered an upper-body injury when he was hit from behind and into the glass by Derek MacKenzie of Columbus almost nine minutes into the first period.
Ekman-Larsson is considered day-to-day, Tippett said.
"Losing anybody is tough but losing a guy like Oliver is really tough," said defenseman Keith Yandle, who played a season-high 30:37. "It hurts even strength, power play, penalty kill … You hope he's OK."
Smith, who was pulled from Tuesday's 4-3 win over Edmonton after allowing three goals on 10 shots, was pleased with his effort in the loss.
“Obviously, the outcome wasn't what we wanted, but personally I felt like I needed to come in tonight and rebound and for the most part, I thought I did that," Smith said. "But it's about winning games, it's not about personal achievement, so I felt good, but disappointed with the outcome.”
Horton, who signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract last summer but missed the first 40 games following shoulder surgery, was parked just outside the crease when he gathered in a James Wisniewski shot and stuffed it past Phoenix goalie Mike Smith at 15:51 for a power-play goal.
"We've been waiting anxiously to see him play and be a part of the team," Umberger said of Horton. "He's such a positive influence in our locker room. He's has fun and he truly loves hockey.
Horton's goal was all Blue Jackets goalie Curtis McElhinney needed. Though starter Sergei Bobrovsky is back from a groin injury and dressed for the first time in a month, McElhinney got the call and made 34 saves for his fourth career shutout and second of the season.
"Their goalie played great," Yandle said. "He made key saves for them. Sometimes you run into a hot goalie."
Umberger made it 2-0 at 10:03 of the third. Smith stopped shots by Nick Foligno and Fedor Tyutin, but the second rebound rolled right to Umberger for the put-away with David Rundblad in the Phoenix penalty box for delay of game.
Special teams, normally a trouble spot for Columbus, played a huge positive role for the Blue Jackets. Columbus had scored two power-play goals in its past 11 games and had allowed six in the past two games. But Columbus went 2-for-4 with the extra man against the Coyotes and killed off all five Phoenix power plays.
"I was just standing in front of the net. I got the rebound and it was a pretty good feeling, said Horton, who has five goals and 11 points in nine career games against the Coyotes. "I wanted to come back and get a win and just keep winning."
Horton gave himself mixed reviews in his first game with Columbus.
"Sometimes I felt good, sometimes I felt bad. It's been a long time but I was playing and we won and that's all that matters," he said. "You can tell we're a good team when we work hard."
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