Zherdev Powers Blue Jackets Past Coyotes

Tuesday, October 10th 2006, 8:58 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Nikolai Zherdev's fast start will have every NHL player wanting to skip training camp.

Zherdev didn't arrive in Columbus until Sunday, not only missing all those grueling preseason workouts and games but even the first two regular-season contests.

After showing up for the morning skate, he stepped on the ice and scored two goals Monday night to lead the Blue Jackets to a 5-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.

``From June 22, I have been in preparation for this season,'' Zherdev said through an interpreter. ``My team (in the Russian Super League) had already played 20 games. I'm in great condition right now.''

He scored on the power play just 1:01 in and added another when he jammed in Rick Nash's shot midway through the second period to make it 3-1.

His teammates didn't expect him to be out of shape.

``He was playing in the Russian Super League, so it's not like he was sitting around eating Twinkies and bon-bons all the time,'' Anson Carter said with a grin.

In other NHL games, it was Toronto 2, Florida 1 in a shootout; Atlanta 1, Tampa Bay 0; San Jose 4, Calgary 1; and Anaheim 2, St. Louis 0.

Nash and Duvie Westcott each added a goal and two assists, Carter scored his first with Columbus, and David Vyborny had three assists for the Blue Jackets, who had three power-play goals for the second game in a row.

Ed Jovanovski scored for the Coyotes, who were 0-for-9 on the power play and were outskated the final two periods.

``It was just a mismatch. They embarrassed us,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. ``They played better than we did and we deserved to lose. It's as simple as that.''

Zherdev was involved in a protracted and contentious contract dispute with Columbus general manager Doug MacLean throughout the summer. He finally signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal on Sept. 28.

Nash said it was fun to be on the ice again with Zherdev.

``He's one of the most talented and skilled players in the NHL,'' Nash said.

Nash was camped in front of the net during a power play and chipped Vyborny's pass from the right wing into the high left corner of the net for his third goal to snap a 1-1 tie.

In the midst of six consecutive power plays _ Columbus was 3-of-12 with a man advantage _ the Blue Jackets made it 3-1 when Nash carried the puck along the left boards, shed defender Derek Morris and muscled his way to the net. He got off a shot at the near post, with Zherdev trailing to jam the puck in.

Zherdev's first goal came on a rebound before he had a chance to break a sweat.

``First of all, I'm happy the team won,'' Zherdev said. ``It was nice to score two goals, but it is more important that the team won.''

Carter, a free agent signed as insurance in case Zherdev didn't ink a contract, scored early in the third period on a backhander that caromed off Jovanovski's left skate and past Phoenix goaltender Michael Morrison.

Maple Leafs 2, Panthers 1, SO

At Toronto, Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker scored in a shootout and the host Maple Leafs overcame 47 saves from Alex Auld.

Kyle Wellwood scored and Andrew Raycroft made 24 saves for Toronto, which lost in a shootout to Montreal on Saturday.

Sundin beat Auld in the tiebreaker with a high shot to the glove side.

Todd Bertuzzi followed with a deke and a backhanded shot, but Raycroft made a glove save.

Tucker followed with his goal that won it.

Stephen Weiss scored a power-play goal for the Panthers.

Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina had to be helped off the ice late in the third after Bertuzzi's knee collided with his.

Thrashers 1, Lightning 0

At Tampa, Fla., Kari Lehtonen had 34 saves in his second consecutive shutout, and Vyacheslav Kozlov scored a first-period goal for the visiting Thrashers.

Lehtonen, coming off a 6-0 win over Florida on Saturday, has five career shutouts. He has allowed two goals in three games.

Marc Denis made 19 saves for Tampa Bay, which has lost two straight at home.

The Lightning outshot Atlanta 17-4 in the second and 28-10 overall through two periods.

Tampa Bay went 0-for-6 with the man advantage and have converted one opportunity in 19 tries this season.

Sharks 4, Flames 1

At Calgary, Alberta, Vesa Toskala made 29 saves, and San Jose got goals from four scorers to stay unbeaten (3-0).

Toskala's only mistake came on Alex Tanguay's first Flames goal with 3 minutes remaining in the game.

Steve Bernier, Christian Ehrhoff, Milan Michalek, and Mark Smith scored for San Jose.

Calgary (1-2) has scored just four goals this season.

Ducks 2, Blues 0

At Anaheim, Calif., Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 34 shots in his 22nd career shutout and Chris Kunitz scored two power-play goals in a victory for the host Ducks.

The Blues (0-3), who had the NHL's worst record last season, have dropped a club-record 12 straight road games.

Curtis Sanford made his season debut in goal for St. Louis and stopped 32 shots in place of Manny Legace, who gave up nine goals in losses to San Jose and Los Angeles.

Teemu Selanne assisted on both goals, and defenseman Chris Pronger earned his first point with Anaheim.