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Blue Jackets 2, Coyotes 0

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nathan Horton waited nearly half a season to start showing his teammates what they got when the Columbus Blue Jackets signed him to a seven-year, $37.1 million free-agent deal last summer.

It took him a little over half a game to start justifying those numbers.

Horton banged home a power-play goal with 4:09 left in the second period and the Jackets rolled to a 2-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.

The goal gave Horton 11 points (five goals) in nine career games against Phoenix.

The win was also the Blue Jackets' second straight shutout over Phoenix after beating them 1-0 on March 16 in Columbus last season. It snapped the Jackets' losing streak at two and improved their record to 4-2 in their last six games.

Former Coyotes prospect Curtis McElhinney made 34 saves in the Columbus goal for his fourth career shutout. McElhinney came to Columbus along with two draft picks in a 2012 deal that sent center Antoine Vermette to Phoenix. He improved to 7-7-1 and handed the Coyotes their first shutout this season.

The Coyotes, who were was already playing without captain Shane Doan (illness) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body injury), lost the other half of their top defensive pairing when Oliver Ekman-Larsson left the game after a hit from behind by Columbus center Derek MacKenzie in the first period.

Ekman-Larsson fell awkwardly into the boards in the neutral zone and appeared to hit both his head and shoulder. He skated slowly to the Phoenix bench while slumped over, then headed straight to the dressing room. He did not return.

The team announced that Ekman-Larsson suffered an upper-body injury. No penalty was called on the play, but Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle immediately engaged MacKenzie in a fight.

Ekman-Larsson was considered a lock to make Team Sweden for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but the injury clouds that possibility.

Columbus left winger R.J. Umberger added a power-play goal midway through the third period off a rebound that found its way onto his stick in the deep slot with the net wide open. It was Umberger's 11th goal of the season.

NOTES: Coyotes D Oliver Ekman-Larsson left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury after absorbing a hit from behind by Columbus C Derek MacKenzie. No penalty was called on the play. Ekman-Larsson did not return. ... Columbus F Nathan Horton played his first game of the season and scored a power-play goal to give Columbus a 1-0 lead late in the second period. The Jackets signed the free agent to a seven-year, $37.1 million deal during the offseason, but he had shoulder surgery and was activated for the first time earlier in the day. ... Coyotes C Antoine Vermette and D Rostislav Klesla both played for Columbus earlier in their careers. Klesla was the Blue Jackets' first-round pick (fourth overall) in 2000. Vermette played parts of four seasons with Columbus from 2009 to 2012. ... Klesla returned to the lineup after missing the past three games because of illness. ... Coyotes D Connor Murphy is from Dublin, Ohio, and grew up a Blue Jackets fan. His dad served as an assistant coach for the team.
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