Coyotes roll to 5-1 win over Blue Jackets
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — When Steve Sullivan joined the Phoenix Coyotes, he knew it was a team where players had specific roles and that his would be to create scoring chances.
Three goals in his third game is a good start.
Sullivan had his eighth career hat trick, Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two goals and an assist, and the Coyotes beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 Wednesday night for their first win of the season.
"You're brought in for a certain reason and you don't want to disappoint," Sullivan said after posing for pictures with the three pucks from his hat trick. "It's no different for myself, so I try to go out and do the best I can. If the goals come, that's great."
Lackluster defensively in its first two games, Phoenix was much more sound in its own end and created some good scoring chances because of it, sending 42 shots at Columbus goalie Steve Mason in his first start of the season.
Sullivan found the back of the net with three of them for his first hat trick since Dec. 14, 2009, against Columbus while he was playing for Nashville.
Ekman-Larsson had the kind of game the Coyotes have been expecting from their young defenseman since drafting him with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, finishing with his first career three-point game.
Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker had two assists each, nine players had at least a point, and Jason LaBarbera was sharp in his first action of the season, stopping 21 shots after starter Mike Smith left midway through the first period with a lower-body injury.
Playing more like they did while winning their first NHL division title last season, the Coyotes avoided their first 0-3 start since 1985-86, when the franchise was still in Winnipeg.
"We were just more committed to the puck," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We weren't trying to make a fancy play every time we touched the puck. We got it deep every time we had to, we blocked more shots, we defended better."
Columbus, one of the surprise teams of the early season, was solid in the first period against Phoenix, getting a goal from Fedor Tyutin and some big saves from Mason, getting his turn after Sergei Bobrovsky started the first two games.
But once the Coyotes started scoring, Columbus came unraveled, looking more like the team that had an NHL-worst 65 points last season, not the rebuilt version that split a pair of shootout games against Nashville and Detroit to open this season.
"There were a few good things, but there was lots of things that we have to address and repair," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Some of it came down to a pure will, a want to compete and battle. We've had it and when we lose it is when we become undisciplined and making some bad mistakes."
A year ago, Phoenix surged to the Pacific Division title behind a tight-checking style and superb goaltending by Smith.
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