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game recap

Merzlikins gets third shutout in four games, Blue Jackets defeat Devils

Makes 41 saves, Atkinson has two goals, assist for Columbus, which has won four straight

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

Merzlikins' 41-save shutout

NJD@CBJ: Merzlikins fuels Blue Jackets' shutout win

Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 41 shots he faced in the Blue Jackets' 5-0 win, as he records his third shutout in his last four starts

  • 03:26 •

COLUMBUS -- Elvis Merzlikins made an NHL career-high 41 saves for his third shutout in the past four games, and the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the New Jersey Devils 5-0 at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

Merzlikins made 27 saves in a 3-0 win at the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 11 and made 34 saves in a 3-0 win against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

"I kind of got into my game and just tried to play simple as I can, not exaggerate anything," Merzlikins said. "I can't make too many crazy saves ... because I had to keep my energy."

 

[WATCH: All Devils vs. Blue Jackets highlights]

 

Cam Atkinson had two goals and an assist, and Alexander Wennberg had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets (25-16-8), who have won four straight and are 14-2-4 in their past 20 games.

Merzlikins' previous high in saves was 37 in a 4-3 win at the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 7. In his past four games, he is 4-0-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and .985 save percentage.

He is 8-2-0 with a 1.51 GAA and a .955 save percentage in his past 10 starts with three shutouts since replacing Joonas Korpisalo, who is out following Dec. 30 surgery to repair a knee injury.

Video: NJD@CBJ: Atkinson rips puck in off post for goal

Merzlikins made 21 saves in the first period, when Columbus took a 1-0 lead on Atkinson's goal at 14:49 with a shot from the high slot.

"You've got to give him credit," Devils coach Alain Nasreddine said. "It's not like our shots were from the outside. That's something we addressed. The guys were going to the net. We had scoring chances from dangerous areas, but he was sharp."

The Devils (17-24-7) have lost three straight entering the All-Star break and are 2-5-1 in the past eight games. Cory Schneider, in his first NHL start since Nov. 8 after spending two months with Binghamton of the American Hockey League, allowed four goals on 17 shots and was pulled in the second period.

"At that point, it was 4-0," Nasreddine said. "I was trying to change momentum. I'm not up here blaming Cory at all."

Mackenzie Blackwood, who returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury, made 13 saves in relief.

Atkinson extended the lead to 2-0 at 8:40 of the second period, 21 seconds after the Blue Jackets' second penalty kill of the period.

Video: NJD@CBJ: Atkinson rips home his second goal of game

Atkinson has three goals and two assists in two games since returning from missing 12 games with an ankle sprain. He has 12 goals this season, seven in the past eight games he's played.

"I'm feeling confident," Atkinson said. "Still taking it a shift at a time but progressing and feeling better each shift and each game and playing the way I'm used to playing."

Jakob Lilja scored on his own rebound at 11:58 for a 3-0 lead, and Nick Foligno poked in his follow 16 seconds later for his second goal in as many games to make it 4-0 at 12:14.

Wennberg extended the lead to 5-0 at 18:54.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said the result did not reflect how poorly Columbus played.

"That score at the end of the second period could have been lopsided the other way," Tortorella said. "We had one guy play. As a team, we played the first six minutes then watched Elvis play the rest of the first period and the second period.

"But don't kid ourselves how this team played. We were not good. Elvis deserves a tremendous amount of credit as far as finding our way tonight. It was embarrassing, and we're up 5-0 after two periods."

Video: NJD@CBJ: Wennberg beats Blackwood on the rush

The Devils had long stretches of domination and said they felt they deserved better.

"The first 40 minutes, what do we change?" defenseman Andy Greene said. "I think we skated hard, we competed, we battled in front of the net, we got pucks there, rebounds ... For whatever reason, wasn't going in.

"At a time like that, it's tough to say not to get frustrated and continue to keep going because you never know."

 

They said it

"I think I was pretty lucky on a couple saves tonight, especially the last ones. I didn't have any reaction anymore working in my arms, so I was a little bit slow. Overall, it was good game." -- Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins

"He played an unbelievable game. We had some big chances. He kept us from some goals, but it should not be an excuse. We should have been more in front of his eyes and get more work in front of him and get one of those dirty goals." -- Devils forward Nico Hischier on Merzlikins

Video: Merzlikins earns Saturday's Pepsi Zero Shutout

 

Need to know

The Devils were 0-for-3 on the power play and have one goal in 18 opportunities in their past six games. … Wennberg has five points (three goals, two assists) during a four-game point streak. … Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov has an assist in three straight games. He is plus-17 since Dec. 5.

 

What's next

Devils: At the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 27 (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS2, MSG+, NHL.TV)

Blue Jackets: At the New York Rangers on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, MSG, FS-O, NHL.TV)

Video: Merzlikins, Blue Jackets shut out Devils

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