The Blue Jackets improved to 17-2-5 in their last 24 games with a 4-3 victory at Montreal in Centre Bell on Super Bowl Sunday.
Game in a Paragraph
On a day the Blue Jackets were up and down, they still managed to keep the streak going as the team now has points in the last eight games (7-0-1). Columbus led 1-0 after one and 3-1 after two thanks in part to a strong effort from Montreal native Pierre-Luc Dubois, who had a three-point afternoon. From there, Columbus was able to shepherd the game home despite two late Montreal goals to take over third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Video: Dubois scores twice as Blue Jackets edge Canadiens
Quote of the Game
Dubois: "I think we were still a little rusty. I don't think we played a full 60 minutes, but I thought we played well enough to win. This point of the year when it's a race to make the playoffs, it's a huge win for us."
- Dubois scored twice and added an assist for his second three-point game in the last three contest. In a four-game point streak, he has a 2-6-8 line, and Dubois has 24 points (7-17-24) in his last 22 games.
- Oliver Bjorkstrand ran his point streak to eight games with an assist, as the Danish winger has a 10-3-13 line in that span.
- Elvis Merzlikins was again solid, improving to 10-2-0 in his last 12 starts with 27 saves. He has won six starts in a row.
It was an even first period, and Merzlikins was ready to go in his first start in 10 days, making a big stop on Max Domi in alone with his left pad and also denying Nick Cousins in the early going.
That allowed Columbus to take a 1-0 lead at 12:45, as Nick Foligno's fantastic effort led to a goal. The CBJ captain was the only Blue Jacket in the offensive zone but managed to keep possession until reinforcements arrived, as finally Dubois retrieved the puck and fed Bjorkstrand in the slot, and his pass to an onrushing Vladislav Gavrikov allowed the defenseman to fire past Carey Price from low on the left.
Price made a fantastic post-to-post stop on a cross-crease pass from Alexander Wennberg to Cam Atkinson to keep it 1-0 late in the first period on a CBJ power play.
Montreal thought it had scored to make it a 1-1 game just 31 seconds into the second, as Brendan Gallagher tipped a shot past Merzlikins from in front. But the puck hit off the post and landed in the crease, where the Blue Jackets cleared before the Montreal goal horn went off, leading to a whistle.
Shortly thereafter, Dubois made it a 2-0 game with his first goal of the night. Foligno hit him on a clearing attempt and he had 120 feet to skate the puck on a breakaway, and Dubois made no mistake with his finish, cutting from left to right before flipping a backhander past Price.
Video: CBJ@MTL: Dubois caps breakaway with smooth backhand
The Canadiens had most of the possession in the second period, though, and cut the CBJ lead in half at 9:18. Dubois had a pass intercepted by Nick Suzuki at the blue line, and that allowed Gallagher to find Tatar for a shot past the glove of Merzlikins from the right circle. Tatar's 20th goal of the year made it a 2-1 game.
But Dubois had the answer with just 2:08 to go in the period. A long shift in the CBJ attacking zone ended when Price couldn't cover a puck at his left post, and Dubois grabbed the puck, swung around on a wraparound and stuffed the puck into the net.
The Blue Jackets played a strong third period defensively for much of it, but the Habs got some life with 4:08 to go as Domi scored through a screen from the left-wing circle. Columbus didn't panic, though, and got an empty-net goal with 1:53 to go as Gus Nyquist tallied.
Shea Weber then scored with 1:01 to go as his slap shot trickled through Merzlikins, but the Blue Jackets played a solid final minute to close things out.
1. Dubois said he never attended a game in Centre Bell despite being born in suburban Montreal, but he certainly looked at home on this day. His two goals were obviously crucial, but Dubois was a big part of the win all the way around as the line featuring him, Foligno and Bjorkstrand has proved to be a bear for opposing teams to play against. With eight points in four games, Dubois is becoming every bit the physical presence the team envisioned him growing into. "His last couple (games), I think he has been much more competitive in wanting to make a difference in the game," head coach John Tortorella said. Dubois, meanwhile, was excited to perform in front of a home crowd. "I think the most special thing is playing in front of my family and my friends," he said. "I had 16, 17 people here tonight, so to get a win and to get the goals for them, it was fun."
2. The second period saw the Blue Jackets scrambling to find their game for much of it despite the fact they outscored the Canadiens by a 2-1 margin in the frame. At 5-on-5, Montreal had 30 shot attempts while Columbus had just seven, and Foligno said the forecheck went missing in the middle frame. As soon as it returned, Dubois scored the big goal late in the second to conclude what had been a monster shift in the Canadiens' zone. The forecheck then continued into the third and allowed the Jackets to keep the Habs at bay for most of the final frame until the frenetic last few minutes. "We talked about it in between the second and the third -- let's get to our game," Foligno said. "We're a team that thrives on forechecking and being in your face, and I thought we could have done that a little bit better and did do it in the third, and that's waht got us the win."
3. If there was any concern about how the Blue Jackets would come out of the break, the team answered by earning three of a possible four points while kicking things off on the road with a pair of matinee contests. It wasn't always pretty but Columbus has shown it has largely kept its defensive structure and poised, patient approach despite having more than a week off. "Three out of four on the road against teams that already played," Tortorella said. "We should feel good about ourselves, but we are just going to take it one day at a time. It's a very important time of the year to stay flatlined whether you win or lose."
Montreal had a 30-27 edge in shots on goal. ... With his two goals, Dubois tied Bjorkstrand for the team lead with 17. … The Blue Jackets had allowed the first goal in three straight games. … The Blue Jackets had 24 blocked shots as a team. Markus Nutivaara had six -- five in the second period alone -- while David Savard added seven blocked shots and Gavrikov five. ... Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play. ... In his last 12 games, Merzlikins has a .947 save percentage and has allowed just 21 goals. ... Boone Jenner won 11 of 14 faceoffs he took. ... It was the 32nd one-goal game of the year for Columbus, which is 17-6-9 in such contests.
Columbus returned winger Sonny Milano to the lineup in place of Jakob Lilja, who was scratched along with defenseman Andrew Peeke and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. In addition, Wennberg suffered an upper body injury and left the game.
The Blue Jackets return to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night to face Florida to kick off a four-game homestand.