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Merzlikins’s late mistake costs Blue Jackets as Jets squeeze past Columbus, 4-3

There goes the three-game winning streak

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When you’re starting a goalie playing his first year of North American hockey, you’re going to see your fair share of growing pains. Those pains reared their ugly head on Saturday night as a brutal turnover from Elvis Merzlikins allowed the Winnipeg Jets to score with 1:54 left in regulation to slip past the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3.

Merzlikins, in his fifth start (all on the road), fielded a long dump from Winnipeg. Merzlikins, less than calmly, attempted to fling the puck out of the zone for a clear but found Andrew Copp instead. Copp threw the puck back past a swimming Merzlikins for the deciding goal as Winnipeg won a game that belonged to Columbus for much of the night.

Merzlikins looked shaky for the first two periods, panicking when called upon to field the puck and spending several saves on his back. He calmed down in the third, though, and made some huge stops to keep the game tied.

The Blue Jackets scored all three of their goals on the power play, cashing in twice on a 5-on-3 in a second period where the Jets went to the box four times in total.

Pierre-Luc Dubois, Gustav Nyquist and Seth Jones scored for Columbus while Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mathieu Perrault and Copp scored for Winnpeg. Merzlikins made 27 saves in the loss. Laurent Brossoit, who played 48:41 in his start for the Jets, left the game with apparent cramping midway through the third and was not the goalie of record. Connor Hellebuyck stopped all five shots he saw to earn the win. Winnipeg also played the third period with four defensemen after losing a pair to blocked shots.

Final Thoughts

  • Three goals on the power play! Holy boats! Seth Jones said in the second intermission that Paul MacLean has been a “new voice” and sometimes hockey players just need to hear things put in a different way. “Different slang,” he said. Whatever it is (and the power play was trending up before MacLean came on board, for the record), it’s working.
  • Whoops.
  • The Blue Jackets did play well on the road, though. No goals at 5v5 isn’t great, but the CBJ controlled play in nearly every advanced statistic and deserved a better fate (I mean, look at that MoneyPuck link in the above tweet).
  • Nyquist has a three-game point streak, Cam Atkinson has seven points in his last seven games and Dubois has 10 goals on the season. Also, Zach Werenski has a six-game point streak. Not bad at all.
  • Boy, the Blue Jackets really needed a goal in the third. Especially facing four healthy defensemen and a cold Hellebuyck.
  • Even with the three-game streak coming to an end, it feels like the ship is turning a bit.
  • Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom and Sonny Milano all played less than 10 minutes. For two of them, you might be able to blame the vast amount of power play time, but still. Eric Robinson did play 13:30 and look pretty dangerous at times.
  • Back at it at home on Monday against Ottawa.

First Period

After an initial feeling-out period, the Blue Jackets pounced on an opportunity and forced an early Winnipeg mistake. Josh Anderson drove to the net for a point-blank chance that Eric Robinson followed up on, drawing a Luca Sbisa hooking penalty for the game’s first power play at 4:34.

The red-hot power play needed 24 seconds to cash in. Brossoit stopped an Oliver Bjorkstrand shot that bounced right to Pierre-Luc Dubois, who took advantage to score his 10th goal of the season.

1-0 Blue Jackets, Dubois (10) PP from Jenner (2) and Bjorkstrand (6) at 4:59

Saturday became the seventh straight game where the Blue Jackets scored first.

Columbus kept its offensive mojo going, holding an 8-2 shot edge, until Winnipeg managed to put one past Elvis. Off the rush, Jack Roslovic found a trailing Blake Wheeler for a quick wrister to tie the game at 8:23.

1-1, Wheeler (6) from Roslovic (6) and Kulikov (3) at 8:23

Late in the period, Dubois’s stick got caught between the legs of Wheeler for a tripping penalty in the CBJ zone. Dubois, thinking the call was weak, decided to get his money’s worth by shoving wheeler to the ice again. Big fan of that move.

Karma, agreeing with the call, allowed Columbus to kill the penalty without incident. The advantage did help Winnipeg to pull close to even on shots by the end of the first, 11-10 Columbus. Good opening frame on the road.

Second Period

The story of the second period: power plays.

The Blue Jackets went on the man advantage at 3:05 thanks to a Nikolaj Ehlers tripping infraction after a shaky Merzlikins stop. The CBJ looked strong on the PP with a high-slot beauty from Dubois and an infuriatingly close call at the end of the advantage. Cam Atkinson stuffed a perfect cross-crease pass into the pads of Brossoit, whose teammates threw the puck down the ice for a recently-sprung Ehlers. Merzlikins fished the puck from behind the net and fired it past a charging Ehlers to Zach Werenski. Ehlers pressured Werenski into coughing it up, setting up a quick back and forth with Blake Wheeler that ended with Ehlers scoring Winnipeg’s second goal.

2-1 Jets, Ehlers (11) from Wheeler (8) at 5:19

Luckily, the Jets would go back to the box soon after—twice, in fact. Tucker Poolman “hooked” Nick Foligno (if you’re being charitable to Winnipeg, the CBJ captain did sort of trap Poolman’s stick in his arm to draw the call—a wily veteran move) nine seconds before Sbisa boarded Boone Jenner to give Columbus 1:51 of 5-on-3 power play time.

Columbus would make Winnipeg pay. After some good looks, Seth Jones tied the game with a heavy slapper from Werenski. You love to see it.

2-2, Jones (2) PP from Werenski (8) and Atkinson (10) at 6:30

The Blue Jackets needed 47 more seconds to score again on the power play and take the lead. Brossoit stopped a Bjorkstrand shot, but Nyquist capitalized on the ensuing chaos to put one past the netminder and give Columbus the lead back.

3-2 Blue Jackets, Nyquist (4) PP, unassisted at 7:17

Josh Anderson nearly broke his scoring woes with a breakaway near the 11:30 mark, but Brossoit steered the shot away. That would’ve been big for No. 77, especially because...

Winnipeg found an equalizer with a little more than five minutes to go in the period. Mathieu Perreault took a hack at a one-timer, sending a fluttering puck past Merzlikins to tie the game. Tough one for Elvis.

3-3, Perreault (6) from Lowry (2) and Copp (7) at 14:43

The Jets committed a penalty almost immediately after play resumed as Wheeler went off for hooking. Columbus turned in some great chances and posted three shots, but the power play magic ran dry on that advantage. The teams headed to intermission tied, 3-3, with the CBJ holding a 29-19 edge in shots.

Third Period

Winnipeg started the third period in quite the pickle with only four defensemen:

Both Beaulieu and Josh Morrissey left the game due to injuries from blocking CBJ shots.

Wheeler put Winnipeg on the power play four minutes into the period by dancing past Vladislav Gavrikov to draw a hook from the Russian rookie. The CBJ put up a strong kill, with Winnipeg’s best chance ringing off the post on a Roslovic shot.

In case the Jets didn’t have enough of an uphill battle with four available defensemen, Laurent Brossoit left the game limping with 11:19 left on the clock. Connor Hellebuyck entered the game in Brossoit’s stead.

Soon after the swap, Anderson went off roughing Mark Scheifele in the Blue Jackets’ zone. Dumb penalty to give the Jets their third power play of the night.

Winnipeg spent almost all of the man advantage in the CBJ zone, but generated only two innocent shots as Columbus remained perfect on the kill.

Cam Atkinson—like Anderson—saw his 5v5 troubles come inches away from ending when he drew iron in the final five minutes. The game stayed tied, however,

Disaster struck with 1:54 to go. Merzlikins, who looked great for most of the period, tried to clear the puck and sent it right to Andrew Copp. Copp made Elvis pay and scored to give Winnipeg a lead it would hold for the win, 4-3.

4-3 Jets, Copp (4) unassisted at 18:06