You would be hard-pressed to script Nathan Horton's debut any better.
After a six-month recovery from shoulder surgery and an excruciating wait to finally get in the lineup, Horton made his long-awaited debut tonight in Glendale against the Phoenix Coyotes. Not only did he debut, but he scored the game-winning goal (a power play goal) late in the second period, part of a 2-0 victory for Columbus that couldn't come at a better time. They snapped a two-game skid in the process, and with a Flyers regulation loss in Colorado, moved within four points of third place in the division.
Horton's debut was a big moment for the Blue Jackets and he scored the biggest goal of this game, but Curtis McElhinney's bounce-back performance was not to be overlooked. He made 34 saves, including 21 in the third period as the Coyotes pressed to get on the board, to record his second shutout of the season and quiet one of the league's highest-scoring teams in the process.
Oh, and we didn't even mention the special teams, which came under fire after backt-to-back games in which Columbus allowed three power play goals each despite dominant play at even strength. The Blue Jackets scored two power play goals on two opportunities and were perfect on the penalty kill, and doing so went a long way toward deciding the outcome of the game.
Hard to argue with this one: it's definitely the Horton goal, the deciding goal in the game. The Blue Jackets had played a strong second period but were having trouble getting traffic in front of Mike Smith, who was very good for Phoenix. Horton was camped in front of the net and jammed in a rebound to give his team a 1-0 lead.
1. NATHAN HORTON (CBJ)
Game winning goal in your Jackets debut? Not a bad night at the rink for No. 8, who played 14:47 with two shots on goal.
2. CURTIS MCLELHINNEY (CBJ)
McElhinney was outstanding and he needed a solid performance tonight after what he admitted weren't his two best efforts in the past two games. He made 34 saves and was terrific in the third period.
3. RJ UMBERGER (CBJ)
Umberger scored a huge goal himself, a power play goal in the third period that boosted the Jackets' lead to 2-0. His line with Johansen and Foligno created a ton of chances and was very good 5-on-5.
AT ST. LOUIS BLUES
SATURDAY, 8 P.M.
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