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Arizona Coyotes' powerful power play leads them past Columbus Blue Jackets

The Arizona Coyotes rode a strong offensive night to victory.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets came into Arizona with the NHL's best power play, but it was the Arizona Coyotes that used the man advantage to its advantage.

Sam Gagner scored a pair of power play goals and Oliver Ekman-Larsson added one of his own as the Coyotes scored three times on the power play en route to a 6-3 victory over the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

"We didn't get that many chances, but I think our power play did a really good job tonight," Gagner said. "Even if we weren't scoring, we were creating momentum, getting shots to the net and creating second chances. So that is something we will have to build on."

While one Arizona team couldn't muster much offense on Saturday, scoring was certainly not a problem for the Coyotes. Goals at even strength, goals on the power play, goals galore as five different Coyotes scored a goal and eight different Coyotes recorded a point, including Martin Hanzal who led the team with four (1-3-4). The Coyotes scored the most goals since Nov. 2, when they scored six goals against the Washington Capitals.

However, it was more than just offense that led the Coyotes to victory. Mike Smith got back on track in his first appearance since Dec. 22. He only stopped 23 of 26 shots, but he played much better than his stats indicate -- picking up his sixth win of the season.

"I felt good. I felt at ease going into that game. I felt like I was prepared," Smith said. "Mentally, I was prepared to get back in there, so there were no issues tonight. A couple goals were a little jumpy, but that's just with not playing."

Unfortunately for his counterpart, Sergei Bobrovsky, it was a night to forget. Jay Onrait is sure to take Bobrovsky off the case after allowing six goals on 31 shots before getting pulled early in the third period.

Arizona scored early and often. Despite the Coyotes' poor overall record, they are 8-4-2 this season when scoring first.

The Coyotes controlled the game's flow for most of the opening period, striking first on Tobias Rieder's fifth goal of the season. Reider capitalized on a Lauri Korpikoski shot that went wide, backhanding the loose puck just over the goal line. The goal broke a 12-game goalless streak since his two short-handed goal performance in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 1.

As good as things went for Arizona in the first, things went awry early in the second period. Columbus scored two goals in a little more than two minutes.

Fedor Tyutin potted his first of the season off a shot that just slipped under Smith's right arm. Just 2:04 later, Columbus capitalized on the power play, as James Wisniewski finished off a beautiful pass by Brandon Dubinsky that ricocheted off Brandon Gormley's skate and through Mikkel Boedker.

The Coyotes responded with a trio of goals.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his 10th goal of the season, crashing the crease to tap in a loose puck. He proceeded to crash into net, just under the crossbar, but did so as a happy man.

"I saw (the puck) laying there so I drove the net pretty hard," Ekman-Larsson said. "I should get two goals for that one."

Ekman-Larsson's 10 goals ties Antoine Vermette for the team lead and brings the 23-year-old into a five-way tie for the league lead among defensemen. He leads all NHL defensemen with seven power play goals.

Arizona then dominated the final two minutes of the middle frame, scoring twice to take a two-goal lead.

With Ryan Johansen in the box for throwing his own goalie's stick, Gagner buried a backdoor shot for his sixth goal of the season.

The Blue Jackets began to unravel, as an innocent backhander by Martin Hanzal, coming off his own rebound, snuck through Bobrovski's five-hole less than a minute after Gagner's tally.

The Coyotes continued to pour it on in the final frame, scoring a pair of goals and pushing the game out of reach.

Kyle Chipchura wristed a feed from Rieder over Bobrovsky's right shoulder for Arizona's fifth goal of the night. Gagner scored his second power play goal by redirecting a Keith Yandle shot-pass after a defensive zone break-up sent the Coyotes on an odd-man rush.

Johansen slightly atoned for his earlier penalty, scoring an unassisted slapshot goal in the waning seconds of the game.

The Coyotes have won their last four games on home ice. There are five more games left in their current homestand.

Paw Prints

  • Columbus' perspective: The Cannon
  • Tobias Rieder had an excellent game. He scored a goal, had two points and coach Tippett called him the game's best player early on.
  • The physical game had 85 combined hits and one fight. The scrap between Joe Vitale and Jake Skille was retribution for a Skille slew foot that briefly injured Ekman-Larsson.
  • Columbus had won eight of its last 10 games coming into the game.
  • Keith Yandle's two-point night gives him the team lead in assists (22) and points (26).
  • Attendance: 13,159

Three Stars

1. Sam Gagner - A pair of goals and three points.

2. Martin Hanzal - Four points, including assists on all three power play goals.

3. Tobias Rieder - Best all-around player. Contributed on offense and defense.

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes continue their homestand on Tuesday night when they take on the St. Louis Blues. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.