Elvis Merzlikins made his anticipated NHL debut Saturday night as the Blue Jackets met the Penguins on the road for the first of four meetings this season. Unfortunately for Merzlikins and the Blue Jackets, it wasn’t the type of debut to call home about.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins erupted for five goals as part of a six goal second, en route to a 7-2 win over the Blue Jackets. Merzlikins made 33 saves on 40 shots. Jared McCann scored twice and had three points for Pittsburgh and Matt Murray made 28 saves for the victory.
As this one started out, Pittsburgh got an early power play but did not register a shot on the man-advantage. They also were not able to score on their second power play chance with over six minutes to play in the opening period. Columbus had five shots on their lone power play of the game. In what was otherwise a quiet, though quick first period, Columbus held the edge in shots 12-10.
Power play units for #CBJ— Alison (@AlisonL) October 5, 2019
Dubois - Nyquist - Atkinson
Bemstrom - Anderson - Bjorkstrand
But ya know, as uneventful as that first went, one had to know things wouldn’t stay that way. Not with these two clubs.
Former Blue Jacket Jack Johnson was originally credited for getting the scoring started early in the second period, however it was later changed to Patric Hornqvist, who scored two on the night. Johnson had one assist. Marcus Pettersson added on less than three minutes later.
Needing a quick response, Zach Werenski earned his first goal of the season, getting the Blue Jackets back to within one goal and giving the team a little life. Nick Foligno also assisted.
But Pittsburgh regained the two-goal lead, and things only got worse as McCann scored his first of two on the night.
Tempers boiled over, as they typically do when these teams meet, as Pierre-Luc Dubois got to dance with his boyhood idol Sidney Crosby towards the end of the second period. Things got heated earlier when Dubois caught Guentzel along the boards and Dubois obliged Crosby.
It wasn’t a memorable night for Merzlikins in a good way, but here was a sterling effort to keep one more off the board. With a little help from his defensive unit.
Not that you really need the graphics to illustrate how bad a five goals allowed period looks.
Gustav Nyquist’s first goal as a Blue Jacket in the third period broke a string of five straight Penguins goals. His feed from Riley Nash was Nash’s second assist of the night.
The Penguins were 1-of-4 on the power play, with Kris Letang notching the goal. Alex Galchenyuk had two assists, while Jake Guentzel, Dominik Kahun, and Brandon Tanev also added helpers.
Obviously, the growing pains are real. We knew that coming in. The optimism is high but the current state looks bleak. But it was the Maple Leafs and Penguins too. You only hope Merzlikins won’t feel gun-shy after allowing seven goals in his NHL debut. I would expect Korpisalo back between the pipes at Nationwide Arena on Monday against the 2-0-0 Sabres. Who also scored seven goals tonight.
The Jackets had another five penalties tonight, as opposed to Pittsburgh’s two.
It was the second straight game in which Latvian, and Penguin forward, Teddy Blueger went up against a fellow countrymen, as he’s known Merzlikins since age five. He faced off against Sabres’ Zemgus Girgensons — PD’s favorite name — on Thursday. Evgeni Malkin left in the second period after an awkward collision and did not return. Late in the second period, Alexandre Texier was looking gingerly on the bench after attempting a hit late in the second period and landing awkwardly. He returned for the third period. With two assists, Sidney Crosby moved into a tie among points (1,219) with Jean Beliveau for 41st overall. The Blue Jackets have dropped eight straight decisions in Pittsburgh. Scratched last night, both Dean Kukan (15:16) and Vladislav Gavrikov (16:07) made their season debuts.