The Phoenix Coyotes hosted the traveling Columbus Blue Jackets at Jobing.com arena in Glendale, Arizona. The story of the night was easily Horton’s debut for the Blue Jackets, and was talked about for most of the evening. Tonight’s game was the first meeting between these two teams this season, they have not played each other since March 16th, 2013, when Columbus won 1-0 in a shootout. The Coyotes won the previous two meetings last season though, in which they scored five goals in both games.
The first period started with a few great shifts from Horton, as he skated as a Blue Jacket for the first time in his career – he was even smiling like a giddy little school girl when he returned to the bench after his first shift. The newly formed top-line of Brandon Dubinsky – Artem Anisimov – Nathan Horton played well together and showed some promise as they were the only line to find some chances early on in the game.
The opening period was a healthy mix of back and forth with chances coming from both teams – no clear cut opportunities, but the game was still young. Midway through the first period, Derek MacKenzie landed a huge hit during a Coyotes power play, and a fight ensued between himself and Keith Yandle – the fight was nothing spectacular, but a fight nonetheless. The Blue Jackets successfulyl killed off the rest of the power play, and the game returned to its back and forth manner.
Horton and the top-line had a solid chance after the penalty kill, as Horton found himself wide open in the middle of the offensive zone – he ended up putting a slap-shot on net, and Mike Smith made a great kick save. Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Horton continued to pressure the Coyotes and began to get some quality time in the offensive zone. They were clearly the best line during the first period.
The second period began with Umberger on the Coyotes door-step, but he couldn’t convert the chance on net. During the first five minutes of the period, the Blue Jackets controlled the play, and the Coyotes only had one semi-dangerous play in front of McElhinney. The Columbus netminder was playing well so far though – he faced six shots in the first, and another 7 throughout the second period.
Then, with just 4 minutes left in the second period, Nathan Horton scored his first goal as a Columbus Blue Jacket. The anticipation was growing before Horton finally scored late in the second, as the Blue Jackets were starting to get better and better chances on net. Horton did what he does best to score his first goal as a Blue Jacket, he planted himself right in front of the net on the power play, and used his large frame to win the position and put the puck past Smith. Once Horton scored that opening goal, Columbus never looked back.
The Blue Jackets certainly didn’t dominate the play tonight, but they put on a good show on the road and seemed to have started off 2014 on the right foot. The third period rolled on with Columbus holding their 1-0 lead, as the game continued to be a back and forth affair – the Coyotes couldn’t seem to put anything together in the offensive zone though and McElhinney continued to shut them down on the chances that they did have.
Halfway through the third period R.J. Umberger gave the Blue Jackets a little insurance as he was in the right place at the right time and stuffed home his 11 goal of the season right in front of the Coyotes net. In the end it was Horton’s goal that would be the game winner, as the Blue Jackets closed out the game and won 2-0 in Phoenix.
Curtis McElhinney also deserves a lot of credit for the win, he ended the night saving 34 shots, and recording a shutout. Not only does McElhinney deserve credit, but how about the special teams? Columbus killed off five penalties, and scored both goals on the power play.
As mentioned in the start of this article, it was Horton’s debut that stole the show before the game, and then he continued the story on the ice as he scored his first ever goal for Columbus. The rest of the Blue Jackets helped the story-line out, as they all played fairly well to help make Horton’s goal the game winner.
Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets