COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s a mental snapshot that Matt Calvert intends to carry with him forever—all those hats floating out of the stands and landing softly on the ice.
The rookie had three goals and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-3 on Friday night.
“I skated back to the bench and my teammates were congratulating me,” Calvert said, surrounded by reporters. “Seeing all the hats going down … the crowd was electric. It was unbelievable. It just kind of lasted for so long I didn’t really know what to do. I just stood there. It was an exciting moment, something I’ll remember for the rest of my career.”
Calvert, playing in his 20th NHL game, had never had two goals in a game. His night included a highlight-reel score when he tipped the puck to himself waist high and then batted it like a pull hitter to give Columbus a 4-2 lead.
“It’s one of those plays that you try a few times,” he said with a grin. “Luckily, that one got that one past the goalie. It was pretty special to see that go in.”
The win was special to the Blue Jackets, who have won three in a row, five of six and have points in nine of their last 10 games. The began the night just four points out of the No. 6 position in the wild, wild West. They’re in the thick of things heading out on a five-game trip.
“Like we’ve been doing the last month and a half, we responded well,” said R.J. Umberger, who had a goal and two assists. “We’ve been down 2-0 a couple of times. Our power play stepped up and got us back in the game.”
The Blue Jackets were 3-of-9 on power plays—their most productive game of the season in that statistic. They did not score two power-play goals until their 49th game, but have scored two or more five times in the last 12. A team that had just five goals with the man advantage in the month of November had three power-play goals in a span of 7:47 against the Coyotes.
Calvert has six goals in the last five games, including one on the power play.
Just 2:37 into the second period, with the score tied 2-2 and with Columbus up a man, he fired a shot that glanced off defenceman Derek Morris’ s jersey and into the net.
Midway through the period, he scored as if he were Canadian baseball star Joey Votto jumping on a curveball.
He then lifted his own rebound past goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for his third goal at 3:27 of the third, becoming only the second Blue Jackets rookie to score that many in a game. A crowd of 16,771 tossed hundreds of hats onto the ice. The P.A. announcer eventually asked fans to not throw any more onto the rink so play could continue.
Calvert, a fifth-round pick in the ’08 draft, showed a knack for finding the net in his three years with Brandon of the Western Hockey League, totalling 99 goals from 2007-20010. He started his first professional season at Columbus’ top minor-league affiliate, Springfield in the AHL, before being recalled Jan. 6.
The 21-year-old has been valuable ever since, with nine goals and four assists in 20 games.
“He’s done lots of good things and is certainly making the most of his opportunities, getting elevated and (earning) the ice time,” coach Scott Arniel said. “At the NHL level there is always the unknown, but I saw him in junior and I saw him do what he did tonight.”
Jake Voracek scored, Derek MacKenzie had two assists and Steve Mason stopped 25 shots for the Blue Jackets.
The Coyotes, who had won eight in a row before an 8-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday, got goals from David Schlemko, Radim Vrbata and Lauri Korpikoski. They played like a team playing its fourth game on a five-game road swing.
Coach Dave Tippett blamed it on the penalties.
“When you do that you are just giving the other team a better chance of winning and we just kept doing it until they won,” he said. “Four or five of the penalties we took tonight were players that got beat in a one-on-one battle.
“That’s just unacceptable for us right now.”
NOTES—Former Columbus head coach Dave King, now a Phoenix assistant, attended Blue Jackets practice on Thursday. … With theNHL trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, scouts from eight NHL teams were at the game: Atlanta, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Jose and Minnesota. … Before the game, the Blue Jackets placed LW Kristian Huselius on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 18. … Mikkel Boedker had two assists for the Coyotes. … Columbus had lost the last five meetings.