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Coyotes 5, Blue Jackets 1

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Veteran newcomer Steve Sullivan scored a hat trick in his third game with Phoenix and goaltender Jason LaBarbera gave up only one goal in relief of injured Mike Smith to help the Coyotes to their first victory of the season, 5-1, over Columbus at Jobing.com Arena on Wednesday.

Sullivan tipped in a shot from Derek Morris 10:01 into the third period to give the Coyotes a 4-1 lead, their fourth straight goal. It completed Sullivan's eighth career hat trick.

Sullivan scored on a 5-on-3 power play for a 3-1 lead four minutes into the third period after tying the game at 1 with 12 minutes remaining in the second period. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson added his first two goals of the season for the Coyotes and had a career-high three points.

Sullivan, signed in July to fill the void left when Ray Whitney signed a two-year, $9 million deal with Dallas over the summer, has 48 points in 48 games against Columbus (1-1-1), which was attempting to open the season with three straight non-regulation losses for the first time in six years.

Phoenix (1-2-0) avoided its worst start since 1985-86, when the team was 0-3 while still located in Winnipeg.

LaBarbera, who had not played since March 25, 2012, entered during a timeout with nine minutes remaining in the first period after Smith suffered a lower-body injury. Smith appeared to injure himself when he went to his knees on a shot that did not get through the defense.

LaBarbera turned away point-blank shots from Vinny Prospal and Ryan Johansen within the next 30 seconds and was not scored upon until Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin scored his first goal of the season to break a scoreless tie 5:30 into the second period. Tyutin has four points in three games.

Smith, who had a career-low 2.21 goals-against average last season, had given 10 goals in the Coyotes' first two games. He set an NHL record for saves in a regulation shutout the last time the two teams met -- 54 saves in a 2-0 victory here April 3, 2012. The Coyotes lost all three other games to the Blue Jackets last season.

NOTES: Coyotes center Martin Hanzal did not play because of a lower-body injury. Hanzal had a goal and an assist in the first two games. Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla also was an injury scratch. ... Columbus defenseman Adrian Aucoin spent the last three seasons with the Coyotes before signing a one-year contract with the Blue Jackets in the offseason. ... Center Antoine Vermette had 68 goals and 152 points in 241 games in parts of four seasons with Columbus before being acquired by the Coyotes on Feb. 22. Vermette led the Coyotes in scoring in the 2012 playoffs with 10 points. ... Phoenix will play four games in the next seven days, with three at home, including a rematch of the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles on Saturday in Phoenix. The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings eliminated the Coyotes in five games last season, limiting the Coyotes to eight goals in the series. The Coyotes open the stretch at San Jose on Thursday.
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