COYOTES FALL TO COLUMBUS 5-2
Columbus at Phoenix
By: Chad Lynch
Photos by Norm Hall
The game got underway with both clubs trying to establish an early offensive presence as the Columbus tried to get several shots on Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph. But despite being out shot by the Blue Jackets over the first five minutes of the period, the Coyotes were able to keep Columbus off the scoreboard.
At the other end of the ice, Phoenix had a trio of good scoring chances early but late cover by netminder Marc Denis or an inability by the Coyotes to get to loose pucks first and put them in, kept the contest scoreless.
Columbus would get on the scoreboard first at 6:16 of the opening period when Sergei Fedorov's blast from the point was re-directed off the stick of Rostislav Klesla and past Joseph for a 1-0 Blue Jackets lead.
Phoenix went on the first power play of the game at 8:02 of the opening frame when Columbus defenseman Ron Hainsey was called for holding. The Coyotes wouldn't be able to find much offensive pressure with the man-advantage, but shortly after the penalty expired the Coyotes entered into the Columbus zone when defenseman Denis Gauthier kept the puck in along the right side and sent a pass to Petr Nedved behind the net, who quickly spotted an open Ladislav Nagy in the slot. Nedved's pass handcuffed Nagy for a second, but after re-gaining his grip, Nagy snapped a wrister past the glove of Denis to tie the game at 1-1.
Unfortunately the game wouldn't stay tied for very long as Blue Jacket sniper Rick Nash, broke into the Phoenix zone, split his way between Gauthier and Zbynek Michalek and swept a backhand shot past Joseph to give Columbus back the lead at 2-1.
The Blue Jackets received their first power play of the game at 12:07 of the first when Nedved was called for interference. The Coyotes rose to the challenge as they kept the Columbus attack at bay and managed to kill off the penalty without surrendering another goal.
With just under six-minutes to play in the period, the Coyotes nearly tied the game for a second time when Oleg Saprykin's wrist shot beat Denis low to the stick side, but ricocheted off the goal post and into the corner.
Phoenix found themselves back on the penalty kill with 5:20 to play in the period when Tim Jackman was assessed a minor interference call. This time, the Coyotes wouldn't be able to keep the Columbus attack in check as Bryan Berard's slap shot form the point with 4:03 to play, made it's way into the net and extended the Blue jackets lead to 3-1.
At 16:15 of the first, Phoenix got another stab at the power play as Columbus' Trevor Letowski was called for holding. But just as they had in their first power play, the Coyotes were unable to break through the Blue Jackets defense and get pressure to the net. As a result, Columbus returned to full strength and did so with a two-goal lead as the first period came to an end.
The Coyotes came out in the second period with offensive onslaught that paid off at 1:19 of the second when Ladislav Nagy's shot from the point was tipped at the top of the crease by Coyotes forward Shane Doan and into the net to make it a 3-2 game.
With Sean O'Donnell and Blue Jackets forward Jaroslav Balastik already in the box serving matching minors, Paul Mara was sent to the box at 3:04 of the period for hooking. The Blue Jackets would only need 24 seconds to cash-in on the man-advantage as Berard blasted a shot from the point that beat Joseph and gave Columbus back the two-goal lead at 4-2.
With 8:23 to play in the second, the Coyotes received a scare when a Columbus forward broke in on the Phoenix goaltender and after firing a shot that was easily stopped, slid into Joseph moving the net off it's moorings and stopping play. Fortunately, Joseph was able to get up quickly and showed no signs of serious injury.
The Coyotes went back on the power play at 12:39 of the second when Fedorov was given two-minutes for cross-checking and two-minutes for holding, resulting in an extended man-advantage for Phoenix. The Coyotes tried to take full advantage of the power play as they set-up in the offensive zone and sent shot-after-shot at the Blue Jackets net, but Denis stood his ground and the Blue Jackets were able to kill off the entire four minutes to Fedorov without giving up a goal.
Columbus made another trip to the box with 3:01 to play when Klesla was called for hooking. But once again, the Coyotes would struggle to find the back of the net and the period would end with Columbus holding a 4-2 lead after forty minutes of play.
In the final period, the Coyotes completely dominated the tempo of play in the first half of the period by constantly bringing the puck into the Columbus zone and getting shots on goal. But the Coyotes were struggling to get rewarded for their efforts, as Denis and the Blue Jackets defense, were able to keep the puck out of the net and force Phoenix to start taking more chances as they attempted to cut the deficit to one.
At 10:13 of the third, the Coyotes went back to work on the power play as Hainsey took another trip to the box, this time for holding. However, the Coyotes still struggled to find the back of the net as Denis eclipsed the 30-save mark and the Blue jackets returned to full strength.
The Coyotes were unable to find a way past Denis for the remainder of the contest, but the Blue Jackets capped off their night when Berard scored his third goal of the game with just 45 seconds left in regulation as Columbus skated off with a 5-2 victory.