The Phoenix Coyotes were the winless team and the team hungriest for a win heading into tonight's game, and they did nothing to dispel that notion.
After a sluggish first period from both sides, the Coyotes answered a 1-0 lead by the Blue Jackets with two quick goals midway through the second period and put the clamps on the hockey game. They had to weather some early adversity, too, as starting goaltender Mike Smith left the game with a lower body injury during a media timeout in the first period.
Off the bench came Jason LaBarbera, and quite frankly, he didn't have much work after that. He made a pair of nice stops on Ryan Johansen and Vinny Prospal upon entering the game but the Blue Jackets failed to establish any offensive consistency.
The key to success against this Coyotes club is to manage the puck in the middle of the ice and not feed into their counterattacking style, and the Blue Jackets were not very sharp in that regard. Their turnovers mounted as the game progressed and it led to penalties, including a pair of them on the same play that resulted in a back-breaking 3-1 goal.
Steve Sullivan was the story tonight for Phoenix, netting a hat trick in his third game with the Coyotes. He scored the tying goal, the cushion goal, and the put-away goal for Phoenix, which didn't get much resistance from the Blue Jackets down the stretch in the third period.
For Columbus, Steve Mason started strong in the first period and kept the Blue Jacket afloat in his season debut, but fell victim to defensive breakdowns and careless penalties. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored a pair of goals in this game, and was a regular force creating offense from the blue line.
It's "short memory" time for the Blue Jackets, who have a quick turnaround and flight tonight to Denver to face the Avalanche tomorrow night. Todd Richards said Sergei Bobrovsky is his expected starter for that game, and it's looking to remain that way.
Ekman-Larsson's first goal gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead in the second period, and it was the culmination of a poor stretch of hockey by the Blue Jackets. The first goal was a tough one to give up, but miscommunication in the neutral zone allowed Ekman-Larsson to jump into the rush and bury the eventual game-winner.
-- Not nearly enough shots on goal for the Blue Jackets tonight, and it was a stark difference from their first two games of the season. I'd expect that to change against Colorado.
-- Mason wasn't sharp by any means, but his teammates did him no favors with the coverage lapses in front of the net and inside the defensive zone. The Blue Jackets want to be a team that gets up the ice quickly and spends little time in their own end, but they did the opposite tonight.
-- Sullivan keeps on his pace of being a thorn in the Blue Jackets' side. Wherever he goes, he seems to find a way to put the puck in the Columbus net.
at Colorado Avalanche
Thursday, 9 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com
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