COLUMBUS, Ohio – Peter Mueller has come full circle and the Phoenix Coyotes have turned around their season.
Mueller, making his first appearance in the city where he was drafted eighth overall last summer, scored twice and the Phoenix Coyotes came back for three third-period goals to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Tuesday night.
“It was one of the best games we’ve played this year,” coach Wayne Gretzky said. “We matched up against a good team that’s playing well.”
The Coyotes, in the thick of the playoff race after winning just two of their first seven games, won for the first time when trailing through two periods. They came in at 0-18-0 when behind headed into the third.
Mueller scored his 14th and 15th goals. He notched the go-ahead goal with 6:26 remaining, taking a long tape-to-tape pass from Shane Doan, who extended his points streak to a career-best 11 games.
Doan was at his own blue-line when he whipped a pass to the far blue-line to Mueller, who skated in and slid the puck between the legs of goaltender Pascal Leclaire.
“Doaner made a great play to bring it over to the other side,” the 19-year-old Mueller said. “One of their defencemen just jumped up a little too late and I got the puck around him and walked in 2-on-1.”
Mathias Tjarnqvist had an acrobatic, one-handed goal and Radim Vrbata added an empty-netter and an assist for the Coyotes, who have won their last three games. Others also contributed.
“There’s no secret to this game,” Gretzky said. “It’s hard work, it’s effort, it’s second effort. The guys who do little things that you don’t often see on the scoreboard, creating openings. I was just really proud of our effort.”
Fredrik Modin and Jason Chimera scored for the Blue Jackets, who had their franchise-record six-game home winning streak end.
“We were soft,” said Modin. “We can’t be soft against a team like that. It cost us.”
They didn’t start that way. The Blue Jackets scored just 21 seconds in, after Manny Malhotra tried a long slap shot which was blocked by defenceman Matt Jones. The puck bounced to Modin, who rocketed a shot past Ilya Bryzgalov for his second goal of the season.
The Coyotes tied the score in the second period on the power play against the Blue Jackets’ league-best penalty kill (86.8 per cent) when Mueller carried the puck along the left boards and then coasted along the goal-line before wristing a quick shot that beat Leclaire inside the near post.
Chimera made it 2-1 with 1:36 left in the period, taking a drop pass from Nikolai Zherdev inside the left circle and zipping a one-timer high on the glove side past Bryzgalov, who finished with 22 saves.
Phoenix pulled even again just 1:35 into the third period on Tjarnqvist’s goal. Vrbata fired a high shot that Leclaire stood up to stop with his shoulder, the puck flying 10 feet in the air to Leclaire’s left. While the goalie looked for the puck, Tjarnqvist skated in and reached over, extending his right arm while holding the stick, to tap the puck into the net.
“It was a lucky goal,” he said. “The puck went up in the air and I just tried to whack at the puck. Luckily I hit it.”
Mueller then added the goal that gave the Coyotes their first lead of the game.
Notes: After the game, the Blue Jackets announced they had dealt enforcer Jody Shelley to the San Jose Sharks for a sixth-round pick. … Columbus forward Rick Nash received a lengthy standing ovation midway through the first period when video clips of his three goals in Sunday night’s all-star game were shown on the centre-ice monitors. … The Coyotes improved to 16-10-0 on the road, but are only 11-11-2 at home. … Doan has six goals and nine assists during his points streak. … Phoenix is 19-0-0 when scoring four or more goals.