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COLUMBUS, Ohio - This is starting to turn into a November to remember for the Coyotes.
Phoenix beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena for its third consecutive triumph and its fourth victory in six games this month.
The Coyotes dominated and led 4-0 midway through the third period. Columbus, which entered the game with a three-game winning streak, scored two cosmetic goals to make the final score appear more respectable.
“I just liked the way we played the entire night,” Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky said. “We talked about it before the game that this was one of the hottest teams in hockey, (they) had won three in a row, the goalie is solid and we’d better be ready to start the hockey game. I thought our guys paid attention to detail and they had strong work ethic.”
Captain Shane Doan had two goals and an assist, and Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves to lead the Coyotes (8-6-0), who play the Minnesota Wild Thursday in St. Paul.
Doan had his third two-goal game of the season and the 30th of his career. He came extremely close to notching his first career hat trick in the final moments but his shot from beyond the red line at an empty net hit the right post.
Steven Reinprecht, Kevin Porter and Martin Hanzal also scored goals for Phoenix. Defenseman Keith Yandle chipped in two assists.
Reinprecht’s goal came at 16:34 of the first period. Rookie Kyle Turris set up the play by dropping a pass to Yandle at the left point and Yandle fired a shot on goal through traffic that Reinprecht tipped past Columbus goalie Steve Mason.
“It was a good shift by us, we were able to keep the puck low and then it went back to (Yandle) and he shot it and I just got my stick on it,” Reinprecht said. “It was good to get the lead.”
Doan agreed that scoring first was key to the outcome.
“We know how good they are capable of being, and at home especially with the way that they play,” Doan said. “They can smother you. That first goal, if they get it, it’s a long night. So that (goal) was a big one. … We knew how great Mason was playing so we were fortunate enough to get that first one.”
The Coyotes upped their lead to 2-0 at 7:41 of the second period when Doan took a pass from Peter Mueller near the blue line, split Columbus defenders Jan Hejda and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen for a breakaway, deked and then back-handed the puck by Mason. The goal came just seconds after the Coyotes had completed an unsuccessful power play. Olli Jokinen nearly scored with the man advantage but his shot with 30 seconds left hit the right post.
Porter’s second goal of the season made the score 3-0 exactly eight minutes into the third period. Fancy puck-handling in close keyed the goal for the University of Michigan graduate, who was thrilled to score a goal in Buckeyes country.
Doan added his second goal 84 seconds later when he slid the puck under Mason. A video review was needed to confirm the goal, but it counted.
It wasn’t all about the offense, however. The Coyotes played disciplined defense, made few mistakes and kept 19 shots from reaching Bryzgalov.
“Our players are blocking lots of shots and that makes my life more easy,” the Russian netminder said.
Bryzgalov’s most significant save came early in the third period with the Coyotes leading 2-0. Columbus star Rick Nash made a nice pass to Fredrik Modin deep in the Phoenix zone but Bryzgalov was able to block Modin’s shot with his right leg.
Asked if he felt his team has turned a corner after starting the season 2-3-0, Gretzky said: “We’re plugging along. We want to get better every night and we want to grow as a team… The guys just love to play hard and they are enjoying winning right now and are enjoying each other. It’s an unselfish group.”
• Hanzal’s goal, an empty-netter with 22 seconds left, was his first since April 4, 2008.
• Columbus appeared to score the first goal of the game at 10:45, but video replays confirmed that Nash pushed the puck Bryzgalov with one of his hands and the goal was not allowed.
• Bryzgalov has given up just eight goals in the past five games.
• Nash scored his first goal in 10 games when he ended the shutout in the third period with a power-play goal.
• Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski left the ice briefly after being struck in the right eye by Kristian Huselius’ stick late in the second period. Jovanovski returned to action before the period ended and ultimately assisted on Doan’s second goal for his 400th career point.
• Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek blocked three more shots and now has 45.
• Doan delivered the best hit of the game midway through the first period when he knocked Columbus forward Raffi Torres to the ice with a clean hard check.
• Coyotes forwards Daniel Carcillo and Brian McGrattan, and defenseman David Hale were scratched. Carcillo and McGrattan are nursing nagging injuries.