The Blue Jackets were unable to return to the championship game of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, as Dallas earned a 5-3 win Monday afternoon to clinch a spot in the title game of the annual event.
Free agent invite Egor Sokolov scored twice while Andrew Peeke added a goal, but the Stars tallied three power-play goals to earn the win. Elvis Merzlikins got the start for the Blue Jackets in net and finished with 24 saves.
Columbus, which won last year's event and has a record five Traverse City championships, will now play in the third-place game Tuesday.
It took just 4:35 for Dallas to take the lead as Adam Mascherin found Rhett Gardner in front and gave him a cross-crease feed to put past Merzlikins to make it 1-0. The Stars then made it 2-0 at 9:24 as Mascherin swiped home a power-play goal on a rebound.
Columbus started to find its footing late in the first, but the Stars made it 3-0 at 1:44 of the period as 2016 first-round pick Riley Tufte came in on the rush and beat Merzlikins short side from a sharp angle on the left.
Columbus had 1:15 of 5-on-3 but couldn't score, but the Jackets got two on the board in a span of 59 seconds near the midway point of the frame.
First, Maxime Fortier did good work to get the puck toward the net, deking through the Dallas defense before feeding Sokolov at the far post for a stuff past goalie Jake Oettinger at 8:28. Then CBJ captain Andrew Peeke made it 3-2 at 9:27 when he ripped a shot past Oettinger from the left circle on the power play.
Dallas would extend its lead to 4-2 late in the frame, though, with its third power-play goal of the game. Merzlkins made a stop on the original shot but 2018 first-round pick Ty Dellandrea followed up and roofed a shot at 16:02 for the Stars.
Columbus got unlucky twice in the opening half of the third period as both Jake Durham and Alexandre Texier hit the post. The Blue Jackets were able to get back within one with 43:30 to go when Sokolov deflected a shot past Oettinger, but that was as close as the Jackets could get.
Mascherin added an empty-net goal with 1.2 seconds to play to set the final score.
By the Numbers
Sokolov is tied for the tournament lead with Detroit's Joe Veleno with four goals in three games. … Columbus finished 1-6 on the power play while Dallas was 3-4. … Mascherin, a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft, finished with two goals and two assists while Gardner, Tufte and Dellandrea each had 1-1-2 lines. Tufte (2016) and Dellandrea (2018) are each first-round picks.
- Sokolov continued his impressive play by getting on the board two more times. The thing head coach Mike Eaves liked about his game, though, was how he was getting to loose pucks first, winning battles and then using his size at 6-foot-4 to then make plays with the puck. It's been a good showing for the 19-year-old Russian, who had 30 goals last year for Cape Breton of the QMJHL.
- Merzlikins took the loss but still made some impressive stops, including a breakaway he turned aside late in the game as the Blue Jackets were pushing for the tie. Obviously his development will continue to be one of the key storylines of the Blue Jackets' season, and one thing he'll simply have to get used to is the puck coming at him from all angles, as Tufte's goal in the second period proved. It was much like a goal he allowed in his first start from the Rangers, as Merzlikins isn't used to players taking such sharp-angle shots as it's not nearly as common a practice in Europe. The learning curve will continue, but the tools are there for the Latvian.
They Said It
Eaves: "The outcome was based on the start. In these three games we played, we were up 2-1 and up 2-0 to now we're down today 0-3. We were in a hole and, as you hear so many times in sports, we had to try to dig out. We were better in the second and third but not enough to get us out of the hole."
The Blue Jackets will play in the third-place game of the tournament Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.