COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 13: Tomas Kubalik #33 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates the puck up ice against Gilbert Brule #8 of the Phoenix Coyotes during their game at Nationwide Arena on January 13, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. The Blue Jackets defeated the Coyotes 4-3. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Coyotes remain in fourth place in the Pacific Division after dropping a 4-3 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
The Phoenix Coyotes visited the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday evening, in search of a win to gain ground on the third-place Dallas Stars and the second-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. At the end of the night, however, they were unable to overcome an early deficit and dropped a 4-3 game against the worst team in the NHL.
The Coyotes were the first team on the board, as Adrian Aucoin scored within the opening two minutes of the first period. Less than four minutes later, the Blue Jackets had tied it up on Tomas Kubalik's first goal of the year. Ninety seconds later, Columbus took a 2-1 lead on Rick Nash's 15th goal of the season. It was a lead they would not surrender for the remaining 53 minutes of play.
The second period again saw a goal in the opening two minutes of play, as Ryan Russell netted his first goal at 1:52 to extend the Columbus lead to 3-1. The Coyotes got that goal back at 8:48 on Lauri Korpikoski's 10th goal of 2011-12. In the closing minutes of the period, Derick Brassard scored to push the lead back to 4-2 in favor of the Blue Jackets.
The only scoring by either team in the third period was a goal by Radim Vrbata at 11:12 to get the Coyotes back within one goal. It was Vrbata's 22nd goal of the season. Vrbata also had an assist on Korpikoski's goal. Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two assists on the evening.
The loss brings the Coyotes to a 20-18-7 overall record and keeps them in fourth place with 47 points, behind the Stars (49), the Kings (50) and the Sharks (53) in the Pacific.