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FINAL: Blue Jackets 1, Panthers 0 (OT)

Goaltending duel between Merzlikins, Bobrovsky ends with Werenski's OT winner

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets extended their point streak to nine games (8-0-1) with a 1-0 win in overtime against Florida on Tuesday night to kick off a four-game homestand in Nationwide Arena.  

Game in a Paragraph 

The teams raced up and down the ice in a frenetic first period, then Columbus dominated periods two and three, but despite plenty of chances, it was a 0-0 game through 60 minutes. But Sergei Bobrovsky made 43 saves in regulation to send things to extra time, but Zach Werenski got the winner to send the home fans home happy and move Columbus four points clear of the playoff line. 

Video: Werenski, Merzlikins lead Blue Jackets by Panthers

Quote of the Game

Werenski: "They're a highly offensive team, so they're going to get chances, but I think we limited those. I think we controlled the game for the most part -- played our game, forechecked well, forwards reloaded hard. I thought our D had good gaps and we just played a good, solid game. That's how we have to play. We're going to win a lot of hockey games if we do that.

CBJ Notables 

  • Elvis Merzlikins matched Bobrovsky with 32 saves of his own while improving to 11-2-0 with four shutouts in 13 games since becoming the CBJ starter.
  • Werenski's unassisted tally gives him 16 goals on the season, two clear of the rest of the pack atop the list of all NHL defenseman in goal scoring. It also allowed him to tie the franchise record for goals for a defenseman in a season, as both he and Seth Jones had 16 in 2017-18. 

Quick Recap (PHOTO GALLERY)

The opening 10 minutes looked as though they were played on fast forward, and there were chances each way, including a rebound that Nick Foligno slid under Bobrovsky that went inches wide of the net. 

There was also a bit of end-to-end action about 4:30 in, with Werenski overskating a rebound to give Florida a 2-on-1, but Frank Vatrano's shot hit the post to the left of Elvis Merzlikins. The Blue Jackets went the other way, though, and Werenski had an excellent look go just wide. 

Then, at 6:06, Columbus thought it had scored as Boone Jenner put a Gus Nyquist pass by Bobrovsky, but Florida challenged for goaltender interference and the goal was overturned as it was ruled Cam Atkinson's stick got a piece of Bobrovsky's glove as the latter tried to make the stop.  

Despite a combined 29 shots on goal and 49 shot attempts (Florida had a 15-14 edge in the former), it was a 0-0 game after one.  

The second period, meanwhile, was the Bobrovsky show as Columbus had a 17-8 edge in shots on goal but couldn't solve their former goalie. David Savard had a good look off a steal early on, then Columbus had a number of chances on the power play, and finally Bobrovsky made a full extension stop on a tip by Werenski, but none went into the net thanks to the standout play of the Florida netminder. 

It was Jones' chance to be snakebitten early in the third as Bobrovsky was down and out and the net was open, but Jones shot was blocked by Mike Matheson near the crease and stayed out. 

Merzlikins then was heard from about seven minutes into the period as he made an excellent glove stop. It was Vatrano again who got loose for a hard snapper at the CBJ goalie, but he made the snag to keep it a 0-0 game.  

Finally, though, after the game went to overtime, Bobrovsky's luck ran out following his 44th save of the night. Werenski kept the puck in the zone along the right-wing wall, advanced on Bobrovsky and fired home short side to give Columbus the 1-0 victory 1:54 into overtime. 

"I made a move out of the corner and the guy went the wrong way, gave me some space," Werenski said. "I saw Cam back door and both guys went to him. I saw a little opening short side and just shot it."

3 Takeaways

1. The first thought is that was a fantastic hockey game for a game that finished 1-0. "It certainly wasn't played as a 0-0 game by either team," head coach John Tortorella said postgame, and he was right. There were 76 shots on goal and 122 total shot attempts before Werenski's shot got by Bobrovsky, and many of them were quite dangerous in a highly paced game. And it was a game Columbus largely controlled, as Tortorella was full of praise for his team's showing against one of the NHL's hottest teams. "I thought it was one of our better games we've played offensively and defensively," the head coach said. "We just kept our patience, kept our patience. It took us longer than the 60, but we found a way to win."

2. The most impressive part of the win had to be the Blue Jackets' team defense, as a Panthers team that entered second in the NHL in scoring (3.63 goals per game) and sixth in power play finished with a goose egg. Tortorella said Florida had just four or five chances over the final two periods as Columbus battened down the hatches against a team that can fill the net, even if it was missing one of its top scorers in Aleksander Barkov (knee injury). "Our back pressure allowed our D to stay up in the neutral zone tonight, and I thought that was a key against a really good offensive team," Tortorella said. The Blue Jackets also produced a smothering PK that sandwiched the second intermission, as Florida had just two shots on goal in a four-minute power play, a total matched by the CBJ in that time. "It was big," Foligno said. "I thought our units did a great job of not giving them too many greaet looks. I think the momentum came back on our side after that and it got our game going."

3. While the defense was certainly good, you also have to mention another standout performance from Merzlikins, who has won his last seven starts, four of them via shutout. He's now tied for the league lead in blankings, and his .929 save percentage is tops in the NHL among goalies with at least 20 starts. In his 13 starts since Joonas Korpisalo's injury, he has allowed 21 goals and has a save percentage of .951. It's certainly a storyline that he's won two straight home starts over the man he came to North America determined to replace in Bobrovsky, but Merzlikins played down that angle after the game. Tonight was all about just getting a win, and he did that. "It's not that I am playing against Bob or something special," he said. "I am just trying to win the games and to get some points for the team, for the organizations. We want to get to the playoffs. That's our goal, and we want to just run away from the teams who are below us."

Notable 

The Blue Jackets' PK improved to 16-for-17 in the last nine games. … Florida entered a league-best 24-2-2 when scoring first, while Columbus improved to 21-4-3 when doing so. ... It was the second time this year Columbus played all 60 minutes without a goal in regulation. The first came Dec. 12 at Pittsburgh, a game the Penguins won 1-0 in overtime. ... It is just the fifth-ever 1-0 overtime/shootout win in franchise history and the first since Nov. 22, 2017, vs. Calgary. ... Columbus nine-game point streak is its second longest of the year, and the CBJ have points in 23 of the last 25 games (18-2-5). ... The Blue Jackets have points in 14 straight home games vs. Florida (12-0-2) and improved to 14-2-1 all-time vs. the Panthers in Nationwide Arena and 23-8-2 overall, the club's best record vs. an NHL foe. ... Columbus has points in 15 of 16 games when tied after two periods (11-1-4). ... The Blue Jackets have points in 17 straight games against Eastern Conference teams (13-0-4). ... The Blue Jackets have played five straight one-goal games and an NHL-best 33 this year. 

Roster Report 

With the injury to center Alexander Wennberg, Ryan MacInnis went into the lineup. Scratches were forward Jakob Lilja, defenseman Andrew Peeke and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (injured).  

Up Next 

The Blue Jackets have two games over the upcoming weekend at home, hosting Detroit on Friday night before taking on Colorado on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. 

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