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Sullivan's hat trick helps Phoenix to first win

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix wing Steve Sullivan needed only three games to underscore the value of his offseason acquisition as a combination veteran clubhouse presence and offensive spark.

"You are brought in for a certain reason, and you don't want to disappoint. I think it is no different for myself," Sullivan said. "I want to go make sure I go out and do the best I can. If the goals come, that's great."

The goals came Wednesday, when Sullivan had his eighth career hat trick to lead the Coyotes to their first victory of the season, 5-1 over Columbus at Jobing.com Arena.

Sullivan tipped in a shot from Derek Morris 10:01 into the third period to give the Coyotes a 4-1 lead, completing the 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.

"You have to be lucky, and tonight was one of those opportunities where it was right place, right time," said Sullivan, in his 16th season.

Sullivan, signed in July to fill the void left when Ray Whitney signed a two-year, $9 million deal with Dallas, 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.

"He's been around the league a long time, and I had a pretty good idea of what he could bring," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's a clever little player. He's competitive. He'll make good plays when he gets the opportunity. He's done very well throughout his career on the power play, so you try to get him in some of those situations.

"You got a good sense when you talk to him and when your teammates talk about him that he would fit in well with us."

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

The Coyotes scored the final five goals of the game for goaltender Jason LaBarbera, who replaced starter Mike Smith with nine minutes remaining in the first period. It was the first time LaBarbera had played since March 25, 2012. Smith led with what the Coyotes called a lower body injury.

"I knew there was something in the warmup, so I just tried to get myself as ready as possible," said LaBarbera, who 21 saves. "It's a tough situation, but sometimes it is almost easier to go in because you just don't think about it."

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-best 2.21 goals-against average while recording 38 victories last season, was to accompany the Coyotes to San Jose for their game Thursday, said Tippett, who added that the Coyotes planned to recall Chad Johnson from Portland of the American Hockey League.

"We gave them way too many scoring chances and way too many penalites," Columbus forward Derek Dorsett said.

Columbus goalie Steve Mason made his first start of the season in place of Sergei Bobrovsky, who gave up six goals in the Blue Jackets' 1-0-1 start -- three apiece in a victory over Nashville and an overtime loss to Detroit. Mason faced 42 shots.

"We played a decent road game and then it unraveled, and unraveled quickly," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "To me, we left our goaltender out to dry. We have to do more to create offense."

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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