The Blue Jackets improved to 12-2-4 in their last 18 games with a 3-0 win against Boston at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night.
Game in a Paragraph
Columbus put together a strong start and held a deserved 1-0 lead after a period, then withstood a Boston push through the second. The Blue Jackets then played a clinical third period, scoring twice to complete the victory, their sixth in eight games.
Video: Merzlikins leads Blue Jackets to 3-0 win vs. Bruins
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "I just like the way we handled the middle of the ice through all three zones. I thought we had really good energy. We advanced the puck. It's one of our better games as we've gone through here."
- Elvis Merzlikins earned his second shutout in a row and has not allowed a goal in 137:51, making 34 saves in his sixth victory of the year. He is the second CBJ rookie to ever post consecutive shutouts, joining Steve Mason in 2008-09.
- Alexander Wennberg scored for the second game in a row, giving him tallies in back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 31 (NY Rangers) and Feb. 3 (Pittsburgh) of 2017.
- One game after his first career two-point outing, Kevin Stenlund added his fourth goal of the season, three of which have now come on the power play.
Quick Recap (PHOTO GALLERY)
There were plenty of talking points in the first 20 minutes, including just 1:12 in when CBJ winger Emil Bemstom caught Boston goalie Tuukka Rask with an elbow as he cut through the crease, forcing Rask to leave the game injured with Jaroslav Halak taking his place.
Columbus greeted him rudely with chances for Scott Harrington and Boone Jenner at the doorstep in his first two minutes of play, but Halak stood tall each time. Columbus also had a goal disallowed when David Savard crashed the net but was ruled to have interfered with Halak as he put it home. Boston also had its chances in the first, as David Krejci fired a breakaway high of the net and Patrice Bergeron had a nice tip on the power play turned aside by Merzlikins.
Finally, the Blue Jackets got on the board first at 13:27 of the opening frame with a goal by Wennberg. It was a nice transition play, with Nathan Gerbe winning a puck battle at the blue line and feeding the trailing Vladislav Gavrikov, who quickly reversed the puck to Wennberg on the right side. Wennberg cut to the middle and shot it under Halak's left pad to make it a 1-0 game with his fourth goal of the year.
The Bruins found their game in the second, but Merzlikins stood strong, helped by Danton Heinen hitting the post in the early throes of the period. The Blue Jackets goalie also made some excellent stops in the period, his best after David Pastrnak found a loose puck and fired from low on the right but found only the pad of Merzlikins.
Boston had an early chance in the third period, with Merzlikins going full extension with his blocker to deny a breakaway by Charlie Coyle, before Columbus extended the lead to 2-0 at 5:46 of the period.
Video: BOS@CBJ: Merzlikins denies Coyle with blocker
It was a power-play goal and a beauty at that, as Nick Foligno fed Stenlund from behind the net, and Stenlund's blistering one-timer from the right dot left Halak no chance as it went into the far top corner.
"That's a big goal," Tortorella said. "It certainly is. It's all about momentum. That's a big goal, but the more impressive play for me than Stens scoring the goal is how he handled the puck coming across the blue line to get us set up on the power play. He wasn't afraid. He beat a guy 1-on-1, held onto it, we get it set up and the ends up scoring a goal with a big pass by Nick. To go up 2-0 in that type of game, it's a fairly big goal."
Columbus then put the game to bed with 6:55 to play as Riley Nash scored in transition. On a 2-on-1, Nash came in along the left wing and elected to shoot, firing over Halak's blocker to make it 3-0.
From there, the Blue Jackets finished off the win with little incident to stay red-hot.
1. As Merzlikins completed his on-the-bench interview with Jody Shelley after being named the game's No. 1 star, it sounded like a rock concert had broken out in Nationwide Arena as fans serenaded him by chanting his name, "El-vis! El-vis!" And there's no denying Merzlikins has played like a rock star in his last eight games, including just 13 talllies allowed in those eight starts and a .950 save percentage. Still, the young Latvian was magnanimous after the game, both toward his teammates -- "I think the team did a bigger part than me tonight. It's a team shutout. It's never going to be just my shutou," he said -- and the home faithful. "It feels good, but at the same time it's really all about our 5th Line," he said about the chanting of his name. "They are loud here every game in this building. I really appreciate it and I think the guys do too." Still, there is a bit of magic in Merzlikins at the moment that can't be denied.
2. The game took on a different tenor after Bemstrom caught Rask with an elbow as he chased a play on his opening shift of the game. The hit knocked Rask from the game with a concussion and made Bemstrom a marked man. Bemstrom said the play was accidental, as he was taking a hit from defenseman Brandon Carlo and turning as he went through the crease. Foligno said it was a key moment, as the Bruins focus on Bemstrom took them out of the game a bit. "(Bemstrom) is not out there to hurt anybody," Foligno said. "Anyone who knows him knows that's not the game he plays. We just told him to protect himself, and we'll protect him. If they're worried about hi, that means they're not worried about the game." Tortorella was happy with how his team responded to the situation. "I thought our team handled themselves very well around him."
3. For the second time this season, the Blue Jackets played Boston and didn't let the line of Pastrnak, Bergeron and Brad Marchand to get going. While the trio had 10 shots on goal, neither of the three scored, and Marchand was in the box for Stenlund's power-play goal. For the most part, Tortorella matched the forward line of Foligno, Jenner and Gus Nyquist against them while also throwing Seth Jones and Zach Werenski out as a defensive pair. "I pretty much got most of my matches against that line, Jenner against Bergeron," Tortorella said. "I thought they did a terrific job of checking them along with Jonesy and Z." The Jackets also did the job against a potent power play, killing all four Bruins' man-advantage chances; Boston had scored on the power play in 14 straight games.
Columbus had 27 shots on goal and was 1-for-2 on the power play. ... Gerbe has a 2-2-4 line in his last five games. … Bemstrom had an assist on Stenlund's goal and has power-play points in consecutive games. … Columbus improved to 10-1-3 when leading after two periods. The Jackets have outscored opponents 23-9 in third periods since Dec. 9 (18 games), with their plus-14 differential tops in the NHL over that span. … Head coach John Tortorella is now one win from 200 as Blue Jackets head coach. … The Blue Jackets have outscored foes 22-9 in their last seven home games while going 5-1-1. … Columbus is 9-4-4 in the last 16 games vs. Boston and 2-0-0 this year. The teams complete the three-game season series March 16 in Boston.
Columbus made no changes to the lineup for the fifth straight game, so scratches were forward Ryan MacInnis, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (injury).
The Blue Jackets remain home Thursday to take on Carolina on Military Appreciation Night