By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes took the ice on Saturday night with an infusion of energy thanks to a sell-out/Whiteout crowd at Jobing.com Arena. They left the ice dejected after losing their home opener, 2-0, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus captain Rick Nash and R. J. Umberger scored the goals, but it was Blue Jackets backup goalie Mathieu Garon who was the real hero of the game. Garon, making his first start of the season, stopped 36 shots.
“They play a hard game around the net and rely on their goaltender a lot,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said after his first regular-season game behind the bench at Jobing.com Arena. “Garon gave them the saves they needed.”
Nash scored a pretty goal midway through the first period after a turnover by Coyotes captain Shane Doan near center ice. Umberger secured the victory with an empty-netter with 17 seconds left.
The Coyotes outshot the Blue Jackets 36-19, mostly because they had seven power plays, including two five-on three advantages. But Phoenix couldn’t get the puck past Garon and dropped to 2-2-0 after starting the season with victories at Los Angeles and then Pittsburgh.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all but one of the shots he faced.
The defeat spoiled the "Welcome Back Whiteout" the Coyotes staged to say thanks to their fans for their loyalty during a tumultuous off-season the franchise spent in bankruptcy court. Most of the fans in the sell-out crowd wore white shirts and waved white pom-poms.
"It was just a great atmosphere the whole night," Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall said. "It says a lot about the fans here that so many showed up and continue to support us."
Trailing 1-0, the Coyotes tried feverishly to tie the score in the third period. At 11:22, Doan, who turned 33 on Saturday, received a back-door pass to the right of Garon, but he wristed his shot off the left post instead of into the unguarded net.
• Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin shot the puck past Garon during a power play late in the second period. The goal was not counted, however, because Columbus controlled the puck long enough to bring about a delayed penalty call.
• Coyotes forward Petr Prucha, who was knocked out of Thursday’s game against Buffalo, returned on Saturday and played 15:18.
• Enforcer Paul Bissonnette made his Coyotes debut and played 6:10. Phoenix claimed Bissonnette off waivers from Pittsburgh just before the regular season started.
• Before losing on Saturday, the Coyotes were 4-0-0 in home openers played at Jobing.com Arena/Glendale Arena.