The Blue Jackets earned a 4-2 victory vs. Los Angeles on Monday night at Staples Center.
Game in a Paragraph
Columbus overcame a slow start to bounce back and start its West Coast swing strong. The Blue Jackets trailed 1-0 after a period but scored the next three goals before fending off the Kings' push late to improve to 9-1-4 in the last 14 games.
Video: Merzlikins, Blue Jackets defeat Kings
Quote of the Game
Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe: "The first wasn't our period, and we just wanted to focus on competing and playing with good energy after that, and I think we were able to turn the game around. We were putting together some good shifts, good shifts down low, turning momentum a little bit, using our speed to get behind their D, and good things started happening after that."
- Gerbe tallied for the second time in seven games since returning from the Cleveland Monsters.
- Scott Harrington scored for the first time this year and the sixth time in his career (167 games).
- Elvis Merzlikins kept the team in the game through the first period and finished with 35 saves while winning for the third time in four starts.
The Blue Jackets were under siege throughout the first period, as a strong LA forecheck and a number of turnovers meant Merzlikins had to make 15 saves in the period, many of them from right in front of the net.
The one he didn't get came just 1:26 into the game as the Kings took a 1-0 lead. Los Angeles was in the zone for an extended period of time and took advantage, as Sean Walker followed his own blocked shot from the left point and fired on Merzlikins, who made the original stop but could only watch as Alex Iafallo slid the rebound home through his legs from right in front of the net.
Merzlikins was strong the rest of the period, while Columbus was largely kept to the outside offensively, other than one try where Vladislav Gavrikov followed his own rebound and nearly scored on a backhand but Jonathan Quick scrambled to make the stop.
The Blue Jackets did get going in the second period and took a 2-1 lead with back-to-back goals. Gerbe got the first at 6:53, as Pierre-Luc Dubois made a strong play in the neutral zone to get the puck to Gus Nyquist with speed, and he curled up in the zone and found Gerbe for a one-timer from the high slot that snuck by Quick.
Then at 10:40, Harrington gave Columbus the lead off a nice feed from Sonny Milano. The Blue Jackets forced a turnover in the offensive zone and Nick Foligno got the puck deep, where Milano retrieved it behind the net and skated out to the right-hand wall before feeding an inch-perfect pass to Harrington going back door for the finish.
Columbus took the lead into the third and was lucky to keep it early in the period when the Kings came in on a 3-on-1 and Adrian Kempe fired wide. Columbus then doubled the lead to 3-1 at 4:49 of the period on a fantastic transition play that went from Seth Jones to Zach Werenski to Alexander Wennberg to Kevin Stenlund, who came into the zone with speed and fired past Quick's blocker as he hit the slot. It's the Swede's third goal of the season.
That insurance marker proved crucial as Walker tallied for LA with 8:45 to go. After a CBJ icing, the Kings kept the puck in the zone on the ensuing draw, and Walker fired through a screen to beat Merzlikins from the high slot to make it a 3-2 game.
The Kings pushed late in the game with an empty net, but the Blue Jackets caught a break late as Drew Doughty lost an edge with the extra attacker on, and Nyquist was able to score into the empty net with 59.6 seconds to play for his 10th goal of the year.
1. Twenty minutes into the game, the Blue Jackets didn't look like they would emerge victorious after the Kings were pretty rampant through the early going, and Columbus had a heck of a time getting the puck out of the zone in the first. Columbus got better as the game went on, though, and started the road trip off right with a big victory. "It was our legs," head coach John Tortorella said of the start. "How many times did we get caught from behind in our end zone trying to get out in the first period? Just a lack of energy. But we come back and we play a really good second. The thing I liked about our team is we get the lead 3-1, they score 3-2, and there was just no panic in our game. We just kept on playing. Ugly at times, but we found a way."
2. It's starting to feel like we're seeing the real Merzlikins. He's been a different goaltender -- much more in command of his crease and the situation at hand -- through his first four starts since the Joonas Korpisalo injury and has allowed just seven goals in the stretch with a save percentage of .945. "He gives us a chance," Tortorella said of Merzlikins' showing in the first period, where he got the job done despite a ton of traffic in front and pucks coming his way, not to mention some turnovers by the CBJ in front of him. "I just did my job," Merzlikins said. "I was trying to help (my teammates) to get into the game. I did my part in the first period and they did it in the rest of the game."
3. The Blue Jackets' first three goals were scored by 1) a player (Gerbe) who has just seven games under his belt at the NHL level this year; 2) a defenseman (Harrington) who has been a healthy scratch more often than not this year and now has just six career goals; and 3) a player (Stenlund) with just two career NHL goals in 14 games coming in. This is the story of the season for Columbus, which keeps getting contributions from all over the lineup, not to mention players who have spent the majority of their seasons in Cleveland. "It always feels good to score," Harrington said. "It felt good just to contribute."
Milano has a three-game point streak (1-2-3). … Dubois had two assists and has a 4-8-12 line in the last 12 games, while Nyquist finished with a goal and an assist. … Werenski has a 10-10-20 line in his last 20 games. ... The Blue Jackets are now 5-1 in the last six games in which they fell into a 1-0 hole. … Wennberg played the 400th game of his NHL career. … Five of the Blue Jackets' 12 forwards -- Wennberg, Nyquist, Emil Bemstrom, Kevin Stenlund and Jakob Lilja -- in the game hailed from Sweden. … Columbus played six first-year NHL players in Bemstrom, Stenlund, Lilja, Merzlikins, Gavrikov and Eric Robinson. ... The Blue Jackets improved to 5-0-3 in the last eight road games and 7-0-0 on Mondays. ... Columbus didn't take a penalty for the third time this year and went 0-for-1 on the power play.
Columbus made two changes to the lineup, welcoming back injured players Bemstrom and Markus Nutivaara. Bemstrom went in for Ryan MacInnis and Nutivaara for Gabriel Carlsson, while Joonas Korpisalo continued to be scratched after knee surgery.
The Blue Jackets are right back in action in Southern California on Tuesday night with a 10 p.m. game vs. Anaheim.