GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Phoenix Coyotes slashed ticket prices and gave away T-shirts to create a “whiteout” for their home opener.
The Columbus Blue Jackets handed them a shutout instead.
Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger scored goals, Mathieu Garon stopped 36 shots and the Blue Jackets beat Phoenix 2-0 on Saturday night.
A rare Jobing.com Arena sellout of 17,532 went home disappointed.
“It’s too bad we couldn’t find something to make them erupt like they wanted to,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “I think the players sensed that. We were looking for something to energize them and we didn’t get it done.”
Nash chilled the crowd scored an even-strength goal midway through the first period and Umberger iced the game with an empty-netter with 17 seconds left.
Phoenix had a chance to tie it early in the third period, when Columbus center Derick Brassard drew blood with a high stick to the forehead of Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, resulting in a 4-minute penalty. But the Blue Jackets killed off that penalty, and the Coyotes didn’t threaten again.
The Coyotes’ future in the desert has been uncertain since owner Jerry Moyes filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May. deflating interest and ticket sales.
Desperate to sell tickets for the opener, the Coyotes slashed prices to $25 for prime tickets in the lower bowl, a reduction of more than $150 for some seats. They also cut prices to $15 in the upper deck, where tickets normally range from $15-$40.
The result was a rare sellout. Fans received white T-shirts when they entered the arena as team officials tried to create a “whiteout.”
But the emotion in the building didn’t fire up the Coyotes, who fell behind early when Nash scored off a turnover by Phoenix captain Shane Doan.
“We scored the first goal and took some energy out of them,” Garon said.
The Coyotes don’t have a lot of offensive firepower, but they have adopted a defense-first approach under Tippett, hired when Wayne Gretzky quit nine days before the opener. The Coyotes had allowed a total of five goals in their first three games, two of them victories.
Phoenix’s defense was strong against Columbus. But the Coyotes went 0 for 7 on the power play and couldn’t cash in on a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” said Doan, who hit a post. “They did a good job of disrupting it, but 5-on-3, we’ve got to get one. We had two of them and we didn’t get one. That’s unacceptable.”
It was Garon’s third career shutout of the Coyotes, his first with Columbus.
Technically, Garon is the Blue Jackets’ No. 2 goalie, behind Steve Mason. But Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t see it that way.
“Backup — I don’t like that term,” Hitchcock said. “Because Mathieu a year ago was the starter in Edmonton. He came to us because he thinks we’re a young team, (and) we’ve got a chance to win. He wants to be part of something like that.”