Coyotes roll to 5-1 win over Blue Jackets


Coyotes roll to 5-1 win over Blue Jackets

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Steve Sullivan scored three goals, Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two goals and an assist, and the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 Wednesday night for their first win of the season.

Phoenix was more sound defensively than in its first two games and created some good scoring chances because of it, sending 42 shots at Columbus goalie Steve Mason in his first start of the season.

Jason LaBarbera was sharp in his first action of the season, stopping 21 shots after starter Mike Smith left midway through the first period with a lower-body injury.

Sullivan had his eighth career hat trick, Ekman-Larsson his first three-point game and nine players had at least a point to help the Coyotes avoid their first 0-3 start since 1985-86, when the franchise was still in Winnipeg.

Fedor Tyutin scored for Columbus in its first regulation loss of the season.

A year ago, Phoenix surged to the Pacific Division title behind a tight-checking style and superb goaltending by Smith.

Neither was working through the first games this season, the defense giving up too many good scoring chances and turnovers, and Smith too many goals that wouldn't have gotten by him last season.

Phoenix allowed 10 goals the first two games, against Dallas and Chicago, and all those came against Smith, who began the day with a save percentage of .825.

The Blue Jackets put up plenty of shots against the Coyotes the last time these teams met, peppering Smith with 54 on April 3. He stopped them all, though, setting an NHL record for most saves in a shutout.

He didn't get a chance to match it, facing four shots before leaving the ice during a timeout.

LaBarbera sprawled to kick away a point-blank shot by Ryan Johansen right after coming in, then gave up a goal in the second period to Tyutin, who beat him with a big slap shot from near the blue line.

LaBarbera was solid after that, doing the splits to stop a couple of shots on a scrum in front of his crease in the second period and turning away seven more during a power play in the third.

The good defense helped Phoenix create some good offensive chances.

Sullivan scored his first goal with the Coyotes midway through the second period, punching in a rebound after Mason made a tough save on a shot by Antoine Vermette.

Ekman-Larsson made it 2-1 late in the period, beating Mason with a wrister from between the circles after taking a drop pass from Matthew Lombardi.

Columbus dug itself a deeper hole early in the third period, when Derek Dorsett and Derick Brassard were called for separate tripping penalties, giving Phoenix a two-man advantage for two minutes. Sullivan capitalized, one-timing a shot from between the circles on a feed from Mikkel Boedker past Mason.

Sullivan put the game out of reach near the midpoint of the period, squeezing a shot between Mason's pads on a redirect off a pass by Derek Morris. It was his first hat trick since Dec. 14, 2009 against Columbus while he was playing for Nashville.

NOTES: Coyotes C Martin Hanzal and D Rostislav Klesla were both out with lower-body injuries. ... Rocker Alice Cooper, a Valley resident and big Coyotes fan, attended the game. ... The Blue Jackets have failed to score on their 18 power plays against the Coyotes, including 0 for 3 Wednesday night. ... Sullivan has 48 points in 48 career games against Columbus.

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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