COLUMBUS, Ohio – No one was certain precisely how Derek Morris’ shot made it into the net.
But there was no doubting that it did.
Morris’ slapshot with 9:16 left went in off goalie Mathieu Garon’s back, giving the Phoenix Coyotes a 4-3 victory over the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Garon used his blocker to deflect Morris’ hard shot from the point just as Martin Hanzal provided traffic in front. The puck glanced up and over Garon’s head, landed on his jersey number and trickled into the net.
“It’s one of those plays that you do all the time,” the Phoenix defenceman said. “The power forward makes a good play from the corner up, Marty did a great job going to the net, somehow—I think Garon reached out to block it before Marty got there—and it just squirted up.
“You’ll take any goals you can get.”
Garon was uncertain how the puck got past him.
“They took a shot, (Hanzal) was kind of in front and touched me and kind of interfered with me a little bit,” he said. “I stopped it but I couldn’t get the rebound and I don’t know if it went straight in the net or up and back in the net.”
The Coyotes, who trailed 2-0 and 3-1, also got goals from Radim Vrbata, Vernon Fiddler and Eric Belanger. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 37 shots.
The Coyotes arrived in Columbus in the middle of the night after a 4-3 victory at St. Louis. The team from the desert was greeted by a steady snowfall.
“We gave up a couple early but we came in, we had nothing to lose,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We got here at three o’clock in the morning, in a snowstorm. (This was) just a good night for hockey and our guys were enjoying it. We felt like we could come back.”
The Blue Jackets certainly didn’t enjoy it.
The loss was their fifth in a row. Jared Boll, Rostislav Klesla and Kristian Huselius scored goals, Fedor Tyutin had two assists and Garon made 24 saves.
But it ended up as just another frustrating night for a club that is 6-14-3 since Nov. 24.
“That goal at the end, obviously when you lose four in a row that is the type of goal that goes in,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “When you are on winning streaks those stay out.”
Down 3-2 heading into the third, Phoenix tied it on Vrbata’s goal in the opening minute. In a picture-perfect display of tic-tac-toe passing, Shane Doan passed to Hanzal who fed Whitney. He then fed Vrbata near the hash marks for the equalizer on a one-timer.
The Coyotes improved to 4-12-3 when trailing through two periods. Columbus was 11-0 with a lead and 20 minutes left.
“We’re getting some breaks, we’re doing some good things, we’re getting rewarded for some work,” Tippett said. “Our penalty-killers did an especially good job for us 5 on 3 a couple times there. We really battled hard.”
Columbus had plenty of chances to pull even.
The Blue Jackets, next to last in the NHL on the power play, failed to score with 50 seconds of 5 on 3 early in the third period.
Phoenix then successfully killed another lengthy two-man disadvantages for most of the final two minutes when the Coyotes had two men in the penalty box and the Blue Jackets pulled Garon for an extra attacker.
“(The penalty kill) was huge,” Doan said. “A lot of blocked shots—the guys we had out there did a great job. They take away time and space. They’re willing to put their body on the line and block shots. When you’re doing that, the guys take great pride in it and it’s a great challenge. You want to prove that you can do it.”
NOTES: D Michal Rozsival, acquired Monday by the Coyotes from the Rangers for F Wojtek Wolski, was scratched. … D Grant Clitsome, called up Sunday when the Blue Jackets sent veteran D Mike Commodore to Springfield (AHL), made his season debut. … Fiddler has had only two goals since Nov. 12—and both have come against Columbus. … The Coyotes were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 0 for 23 over the last nine games.