With the Jackets looking to build on their win against Colorado, Phoenix was a demanding test - this is a city that, like Nashville, tends to kill momentum regardless of how hot (or how cold) the club has been when rolling into town.
What a nice surprise, then, when the Jackets came out and unleashed their dogs of war.
The special teams would come up big later in the period, however, when the Jackets were asked to kill a Derek Dorsett hooking penalty. With time running down on the kill, John Moore took a puck from midair before passing up to Derek Mackenzie. D-mac would head up ice before springing Rick Nash loose on a great pass behind Keith Yandle, and the Captain would burn down on a shorthanded breakaway before burying the puck past Smith's glove hand to open the scoring with his 23rd of the year.
The Jackets would hold that lead into the early second period when Derick Brassard sprang Nash for another breakway. Despite Chris Summers wiping out Nash's legs, sending him careening into the Phoenix net, the puck would cross the goal line on a great stuff move. The War Room would request a review to confirm the puck went in "before everyone else" in the words of the ref, but it would be upheld as a good goal.
Phoenix would respond when Chris Summers put an ugly hit on Derek Mackenzie and then dropped the gloves when challenged by Colton Gillies, and the Coyotes would find themselves on the power play after Gillies was given an additional roughing penalty.
Former Jacket Ray Whitney would cash in to cut the lead in half on a setup by Coyotes captain Shane Doan, and the comeback would continue when a Steve Mason rebound went straight to the stick of Lauri Korpikoski a few minutes late.
With the game tied, the Jackets would be faced with a big gut-check after a tripping call against Rick Nash late in the second period, but the PK would stand up, preventing the home team from pulling away.
Momentum would swing back to the Jackets in the third period in a big way when R.J. Umberger won an offensive zone faceoff straight back to Nikita Nikitin, who fired it home for his second goal in as many games to put the Jackets ahead. The assist for Umby also marked his 300th career NHL point, a career milestone that puts him a mere 748 behind Pat Lafontaine.
Rick Nash would have another trick to pull out of his hat to help extend the lead when he battled for the puck against Keith Yandle behind the Coyotes net, walked out along the goal line, and sent a diving pass to Derick Brassard to set him up for a perfect slap shot into the glove side corner.
Nursing the two goal lead, the team worked to keep taking the puck into the Phoenix zone and challenging Smith, but the Coyotes would finally get and hold possession against the Jackets, pulling the goalie for the extra attacker. Both Ray Whitney and Shane Doan would have a few good opportunities, but Steve Mason held his ground, keeping the Jackets in control before Colton Gillies dug the puck out through the boards, skated up the ice and slammed the door with his second goal as a Blue Jacket.
Final Score: Jackets 5 - Coyotes 2
- Rick Nash - The Lord Humungus, Warrior of the Wasteland. Nash certainly likes putting the damage on in Phoenix, and his three point night was a thing of beauty. The game marks 14 points in 14 games for Nash - if this is Nash channeling his frustration into playing, we need to tick him off more often.
- Derick Brassard - A great slapper and some excellent passes - not just on his setup for Nasher, but several good plays both trying to create offense and handling defensive responsibilities.
- Colton Gillies - Even before scoring his goal, Gillies came up in my eyes for the way he stepped up and defended D-mac against Summer. He seems to be embracing playing in Columbus and bringing a strong sense of team.
- R.J. Umberger - Congrats on #300, sir. Here's hoping that he'll be able to keep it rolling as the Jackets look to finish strong.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
- Power Play - Not terrible - the team head some decent opportunities, but with four opportunities, including a double minor, it would have been nice to cash in.
- Johansen Scratched - Seriously, Aaron Johnson as a forward was a better option? Did Scott Arniel write a schedule for Johansen's playing time or something?
- Darryl Boyce - Not to crack on #43, but how did you manage to be the only guy with a negative +/- tonight?
After taking both games of the road trip, the Jackets will fly home tonight and prepare for the rubber match against the Coyotes on Tuesday. Plenty of tickets on sale if you'd like to welcome the boys home!