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Coyotes roll to 5-1 win over Blue Jackets

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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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Trae Young joins Kobe Bryant in historic feat against Wizards

Trae Young joins Kobe Bryant in historic feat against Wizards

Following the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant on Sunday, emotions were high. 

Many current and former players paid tribute to Bryant, including Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, who dominated in the Hawks 152-133 win over the Wizards. 

He ended the night with a spectacular performance of 45 points, with 14 assists, making 13-of-24 FGs and 13-of-16 free throws as well as six 3-pointers, six rebounds and one assist. 

Young is the first player to have a 45-point double-double with under 25 field goal attempts against the Washington Wizards, since Kobe Bryant on December 17, 2006.

In honor of his mentor and favorite NBA player, Young wore a No. 8 jersey and took an 8-second-violation after the opening tip. 

He even wore his shoes with a tribute to Bryant as well. 

Young was able to channel his emotions into the game, leaving everything on the floor.

In an emotional night, Young was able to keep himself composed leading the Hawks past the Wizards. 

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Isaiah Thomas: NBA should have canceled games after Kobe Bryant's death

Isaiah Thomas: NBA should have canceled games after Kobe Bryant's death

The news of Kobe Bryant's death shook the sports world to its core, and while there were NBA games scheduled throughout Sunday, some felt the league should have canceled the games in light of the tragic news. 

Isaiah Thomas was one of them. 

"It's hard to even talk about it," Thomas said. "The NBA should have just canceled all the games because that put a dent in everybody's life that he's touched."

Thomas looked up to Bryant, admired him from afar and found his love for the game of basketball because of Bryant's greatness. Spending 20 years as a Laker, Bryant won five championships, an MVP and two Finals MVP awards to go along with 15 All-NBA selections and 18 trips to the All-Star game. 

For Thomas, his relationship with Bryant started to grow when he broke out as an All-Star in Boston. When Thomas suffered the tragic loss of his sister, they grew closer. After his hip injury that cost Thomas over a year of his career, Bryant supported him throughout. 

"I started basketball because of Kobe Bryant," he said. "2017, I lose my sister, 2019 I lose one of my best friends in Nipsey Hussle, and then to lose a mentor of mine, like, that's bigger than basketball, that [expletive] hurts.

"He was one of the people that was there for me and in my corner," he said. "And then I got injured, he was one of those guys that was there for me the whole time, helping me through mentally."

The NBA had a difficult decision to make on whether or not to cancel games since there were two games already in progress.

But before, during and after the game, everyone's thoughts were with Bryant and his family and not on a basketball game. Because as Thomas said, it's bigger than basketball. 

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