Gagner’s 2 goals, Hanzal’s 4 points power Coyotes past Blue Jackets
Seeking to solve one of the NHL’s hottest goalies, Arizona coach Dave Tippett wanted the Coyotes to crowd the cease in front of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Martin Hanzal did the rest.
Sam Gagner scored twice, Hanzal had a goal and three assists and Arizona rode a rare big night on the power play to a 6-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
The Coyotes won for the fourth time in five games, scoring three power-play goals after managing only 10 in their first 19 home games.
The difference was Hanzal, whose work in front of the net set up power-play goals for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Gagner before he knocked in his own rebound in a 12-minute span that put Arizona ahead 4-2 entering the third period.
By the time the Coyotes were finished, Bobrovsky was pulled after allowing six goals on 31 shots. He was the NHL’s third star of December after helping Columbus go 10-1-1 to reach .500.
"We looked at some stuff from games last year we played against them and we had some success with some traffic around there," Tippett said. "When a goalie’s playing really well, you have to find ways to get people in front of him, great rebounds and second chances.
"I thought we did a good job of that, especially on our power play."
It allowed Mike Smith to win his first game since Dec. 1. The struggling goalie stopped 23 shots.
"I felt good. I felt like I was prepared," Smith said. "Mentally I felt I was ready to get back in there."
Fedor Tyutin scored his first goal in 60 games, and James Wisniewski and Ryan Johansen also scored for the Blue Jackets, who struggled in their defensive zone at the beginning of a four-game trip.
"You hate to do that to our goalie," winger Matt Calvert said. "We gave up a lot of chances."
Columbus coach Todd Richards added that the flat performance "surprised me."
The Coyotes kicked off a six-game homestand by also getting goals from Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura amid new optimism.
Coyotes players received a fist bump from new majority owner Andrew Barroway as they took the ice. Then Barrow and his son, Jake, performed the ceremonial puck drop.
Barrow, a Philadelphia hedge fund manager, completed his purchase of 51 percent of the money-losing team Wednesday. In a Friday press conference, Barroway indicated there would be a strong focus on beefing up the scouting department and took a long view of getting the team back into contention.
After the Coyotes fell behind 2-1, Hanzal’s gritty work setting screens and clogging the cease turned the game around.
"It’s a hard job, but you’ve got to hang in there," Tippett said. "If you’re picked to do that job, you’ve got to do it. That’s what we needed to have. He was a little bit under the weather, too, and he hung in there."
A rare penalty helped, too.
Bobrovsky lost his stick on a scramble in front, making one save with his shoulder before Johansen threw Bobrovsky stick back to him.
Johansen was called for a throwing-the-stick penalty, setting up Gagne’s goal to put Arizona ahead to stay, 3-2.
That led to a stress-free final period for Smith in his first start since he was pulled in a 7-1 loss to Vancouver on Dec. 22. He improved to 6-15-2.
"It was a step in the right direction for Mike," Smith said.
NOTES: The Coyotes took issue with Jack Skille’s hit that dropped Ekman-Larsson along the boards. Ekman-Larsson returned in the third period. Joe Vitale, who returned after missing two games with injury, later engaged Skille in a long fight. "I thought Joe did a very nice job. I’ll just say that about his whole game," Tippett said. … The Coyotes lost D David Schlemko to Dallas in a waiver claim Saturday. Blue Jackets D Dalton Prout took two minor penalties. Sean Collins replaced Adam Cracknell (healthy scratch) on Columbus’ fourth line.