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FINAL: Blue Jackets 3, Golden Knights 0

Elvis Merzlikins earns first career NHL shutout in Las Vegas

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The Blue Jackets improved to 11-2-4 in their last 17 games with a 3-0 victory vs. Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night on the Las Vegas Strip. 

Game in a Paragraph 

Columbus played a solid first period and claimed a 1-0 lead, then doubled it to 2-0 in the second period. From there, the Blue Jackets withstood a strong push from the Golden Knights and made it 3-0 in the third before finishing off the win to complete a West Coast swing with three victories in four games. 

Video: Merzlikins records first NHL shutout

Quote of the Game

Head coach John Tortorella on the first career shutout for Elvis Merzlikins: "I'm happy for him. It's Elvis, he has a shutout in Vegas. That should be your headline."

CBJ Notables 

  • Merzlikins lived up to his name in Las Vegas, stopping 27 shots and earning his first NHL shutout while improving to 5-2-0 in his last seven starts. 
  • Emil Bemstrom drilled his fourth goal of the year, with three of them coming on the power play. 
  • Pierre-Luc Dubois scored his 15th goal of the season to tie for the team lead and now has a 5-11-16 line in his last 15 games.  

Video: Merzlikins, Jackets shut out Golden Knights

Quick Recap 

The opening period was a tale of two halves, as the Golden Knights didn't allow the Blue Jackets a shot on goal until 8:58 into the game. Then Columbus dominated the final half of the period, putting 12 more shots on goal and taking a 1-0 lead on the power play at 16:38. After a nice passing sequence, Bemstrom stepped into a pass from Seth Jones and ripped a one-timer past Marc-Andre Fleury from the left dot. 

Merzlikins, playing Vegas for the first time, made seven saves in the first period, none better than a blocker denial of Paul Stastny as the Knights center came in with speed on the power play.  

It took the Blue Jackets just 2:06 in the second period to double the lead. Moments after Fleury got caught in possession of the puck behind the net, Scott Harrington's long shot from the left point was tipped home by Dubois in front of the Vegas goalie to make it a 2-0 game.  

From there, the Golden Knights outshot Columbus 11-2 in the period, and Merzlikins had to make some solid stops. He was excellent in the frame, turning into a snow angel to cover a shot by Cody Eakin near the midway point, then made a great left-to-right save with the Blue Jackets on the PK late in the period to stone Stastny again off Max Pacioretty's rinkwide pass.  

Vegas started the third on fire as well as Reilly Smith used his speed to get behind the defense in the first minute but hit the crossbar. Merzlikins also had to make a nice early save on Shea Theodore as the Vegas defenseman deked his way in.  

The Blue Jackets then created some chances, with Fleury making an excellent diving glove save of a shot by Jones from in close, but he couldn't stop Alexander Wennberg's shot with 11:34 to play. Kevin Stenlund made a fantastic backhand pass from the wall to spring Wennberg in, and his shot from the left dot beat Fleury to make it 3-0. The goal was Wennberg's third of the season. 

"Personally, to score that goal, it's nice," Wennberg said. "To have a three-goal lead instead of two, it gives you a little breathing room."

3 Takeaways

1. What can you say? It's Elvis, in Vegas, turning in his first career shutout. Sometimes the stories write themselves. This one was a doozy, as Merzlikins made a number of notable saves and was otherwise solid in his blanking of the Golden Knights. The whole story is incredible, from Merzlikins' rough first two months in the NHL to the way he has responded to taking over the net in Joonas Korpisalo's absence, as he now has a save percentage of .943 in his seven starts since then. He's had some excellent games in that span, but the first career shutout is special, and he showed with a postgame celebration that included him strumming his stick like a guitar and then leaping into the arms of captain Nick Foligno. "Our whole team helped me out a lot, and I'm really happy and really thankful to them that they helped me to reach my first shutout in the NHL."

2. Outside of Merzlikins, the Blue Jackets played a solid game all around. There were hiccups along the way -- the opening minutes were better than the last few games but still not great, and the end of the second period was a struggle, especially as the team had to kill two Vegas power plays in that span -- but by and large, this was a pretty good team victory. Columbus got the early power-play goal, cleared rebounds and added to its lead as the night went on. "It isn't always pretty, but in this league it's a find a way (to win) league," Wennberg said.

3. Tortorella said the Blue Jackets played "kind of like ghosts" in Thursday's loss to San Jose, and the lack of a consistent forecheck was the take-home message from the team's postgame comments following that setback. Tonight, the head coach had a lot of praise for the way his team was able to play smart and make it tough on the Golden Knights. "I thought we checked, we were above the puck, but the biggest thing is gaining zones and giving ourselves a chance to forecheck," Tortorella said. "We did that pretty consistently tonight."

Notable 

Stenlund finished with a pair of assists, the first two of his career, and earned his first-ever multipoint game in the NHL. ... Sonny Milano had an assist and has a 2-3-5 line in his last six games. … The Blue Jackets had allowed the first goal in five consecutive games. … Columbus improved to 7-1-3 in its last 11 road games and has now won four of five vs. Vegas. … The Blue Jackets are 5-0-2 in their last seven games coming off a loss.  

Roster Report 

Columbus made no changes to the lineup, so scratches were forward Ryan MacInnis, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (injury). 

Up Next 

The Blue Jackets return home Tuesday to host Boston at Nationwide Arena for the Bruins' lone visit this season. 

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