Columbus suffered a 3-2 loss in a shootout at Montreal on Tuesday night in a tight defensive battle at Centre Bell.
Game in a Paragraph
The Blue Jackets had a strong start and had a 1-0 lead after a period, then kept it through a scoreless second period despite a Montreal push. The Canadiens got the equalizer early in the third, then the teams exchanged goals late after Zach Werenski gave the Blue Jackets the lead with 1:51 to play. After a scoreless overtime, Jonathan Drouin's shootout goal was the difference.
Video: Blue Jackets, 2 - Canadiens, 3
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "We developed over 20 scoring chances. We didn't finish. Have the game in hand, just can't get it done at the end. That's just the way it's going."
- Eric Robinson scored his first NHL goal in his season debut, his first tally despite playing in 14 games over the past two seasons.
- Elvis Merzlikins returned from the minors to make 30 saves and stop two more shots in the shootout.
- Emil Bemstrom had an assist to extend his point streak to three games.
Columbus had energy from the beginning, putting 15 shots on Carey Price in the opening period and getting one behind the Montreal goaltender. Robinson tallied, as a rebound went to Bemstrom and he passed it to Robinson in front for the snap shot past Price.
The Blue Jackets kept the lead through the end of the first two periods, though Montreal made a bit of a push in the second. The best chance perhaps went to Max Domi, who got a step behind the defense and Werenski had to take a penalty in chasing him, while Domi still got a shot off that was denied by Merzlikins.
An unfortunate moment for the Blue Jackets came with 6:12 to go in the second period, as a shot by Cale Fleury hit defenseman Ryan Murray on the inside of the knee and he dropped to the ice in pain. Murray had to be helped off the ice by teammates and didn't appear to be able to put weight on his right leg, but later returned in the third period.
Montreal for a second thought it had tied the game 1:55 into the period as Domi put the puck behind Merzlikins, but it was immediately waved off because it was hit with a high stick.
The Habs did get the tying goal shortly thereafter, however. Brendan Gallagher entered the zone and shot it as he hit the top of the circles and it beat Merzlikins through the legs at 3:27 to make it a 1-1 game.
Columbus had a great chance to take the lead with just over six minutes to go as Cam Atkinson found Alexander Wennberg in the slot, but his shot was swallowed up by Price.
Finally, the Blue Jackets got a goal with 1:51 to play. Werenski entered the zone with speed, got to the right faceoff dot and fired a perfect shot far side past Price to give Columbus a 2-1 lead.
But the advantage would not hold as Tomas Tatar tied the score with 40.2 seconds to play. Moments after the Jackets nearly scored an empty-net goal only to see the puck just trickle wide for an icing, a cross-ice feed from Nick Suzuki found Tatar in the right circle and he one-timed it past Merzlikins.
Wennberg drew a holding call 1:32 into overtime, giving the Blue Jackets a power play, but the 4-on-3 attack went for naught and the teams went to a shootout.
The only goal of the skills competition came when Jonathan Drouin made a nice move to slip a shot through Merzlikins' legs, while Atkinson hit the post before Gustav Nyquist and Oliver Bjorkstrand were stopped by Price.
1. Merzlikins had what you'd have to say was his best start of the season, and he certainly looked as comfortable in net as he has in any of his starts. It looks as though the North American game is starting to slow down for him a bit, and he now has a 2.45 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in his three starts since his rough debut in Pittsburgh. He''d probably want the first goal back -- Merzlikins said he thought it deflected as the puck dipped on him on the way in -- but he was poised and confident throughout. Merzlikins also said his AHL experience in Cleveland over the weekend was helpful. Still, you can tell he wants that first NHL win in the worst way. When asked if he was happy with his performance, he replied, "No. I am going to be happy when I am going to bring the (winning) puck to my mom.
2. The Blue Jackets got an excellent performance out of its fourth line, as the trio of youngsters Robinson and Bemstrom with Riley Nash in the middle scored a goal and had a number of solid shifts in the Montreal end. According to Natural Stat Trick, the trio played 7:03 at 5-on-5 and had a 9-3 edge in shot attempts and a 4-1 advantage in scoring chances. "They had some good shifts," Tortorella said. It was an exciting moment for Robinson, as well, to net his first career tally.
3. Columbus went 0-for-3 on the power play but did have one man advantage that looked good, as the team's second power play in the first period peppered Price with five shots on goal. But the 4-on-3 in overtime was an excellent chance to win the game that went begging. The Blue Jackets looked to be squeezing their sticks a little tightly, a comment on the lack of confidence some of the team's top scorers are feeling right now. There's a whole list of guys who simply need to see something good happen right now.
It was Merzlikins' third straight start to require overtime and the CBJ's first shootout of the season. ... Montreal finished 0-for-2 on the power play. ... The Blue Jackets have now played 12 one-goal games in 18 contests this season. … Columbus led after two periods for just the third time this year. … Columbus is now 6-1-1 when scoring the first goal this season. ... Columbus has points in six straight regular-season games vs. the Atlantic Division and is 7-3-2 in its last 12 vs. Montreal.
The Blue Jackets made two changes up front, with Robinson and Nash oing into the lineup in place of the suspended Nick Foligno and Kole Sherwood. In addition, on defense, Murray returned from injured reserve after missing six games with a hand injury, while Scott Harrington was a healthy scratch.
Columbus returns home for its Hockey Fights Cancer Night game Friday vs. St. Louis in Nationwide Arena.