The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed the Winnipeg Jets to Nationwide Arena looking to keep the momentum going. After a needed game off, Elvis Merzlikins was back between the pipes. The Jets had a little puck luck go their way, but Elvis didn’t falter. This gave Oliver Bjorkstrand the opportunity to add to his own legend. The sniper scored two more goals to help the CBJ take the victory, 4-3. Here are the details:
The Blue Jackets would start the period off with a quick bit of sizzle. Just 30 seconds into the game, Nick Foligno found himself with the puck on his stick and nothing between him and Laurent Brossoit. No score, but perhaps a sign of things to come? In the first couple of minutes, the defensive pairs seemed a little mixed up – David Savard with Zach Werenski, Seth Jones with Markus Nutivaara, then Savvy with Vladislav Gavrikov. Did Scott Harrington forget a shift? He was back on the ice for his next shift.
The Jackets were a bit sloppy early. Elvis went behind his net to retrieve a puck, didn’t gather it in cleanly, and had to fight off Jack Roslovic. Luckily, there were no other Jets in the area. At 4:38, the Jets’ Mason Appleton scored after a soft shot ricochets off Harrington and right onto Appleton’s stick. Elvis Merzlikins didn’t have much of a chance on that one. Before we could start grousing too much, Nick Foligno left Seth Jones the puck. The Jackets’ All-Star Defenseman drove to the net and tossed it in to tie the game up. Foligno and Pierre-Luc Dubois picked up the assists.
However, that Jackets goal seemed to energize Winnipeg, not Columbus. Harrington made a couple of bad defensive plays, but was bailed out by Nutivaara. Shortly after, Gavrikov is called for a tripping penalty. The Jets buzzed around the offensive zone, but the penalty kill was up to the task.
At about 3:15 left, Elvis played a puck behind the net. Why was that interesting? He made the decision to play it very early – confidence and a strong geometric mind. This writer was impressed.
Unfortunately, soon after that, a Jets shot from the point was deflected by Kyle Connor. The puck snuck in below the cross-bar. That’s some hard luck for Elvis, so far. Neither goal allowed was his fault. I don’t think bad luck tends to affect him though.
The period ended with the Jets leading 2-1.
The 2nd period started off with good early pressure from the Jack—GOOAAALLL! The CBJ turn that early pressure into a goal as Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois play a little give-and-go near the net. The Maestro knocks one through the 5-hole for the game-tying goal. PLD had the sole assist.
Right after that, Jones has his own semi-break but Brossoit makes a good save. And then… well, the period just went on. Lots of end to end play, but few actual shots on goal. Halfway through the period, the teams combined for only 5 SOG. Nothing of note really occurred other than Nathan Gerbe bullying people all over the place and Jody Shelley maintaining his impressive streak of praising Scott Harrington for ‘waiting his turn’.
With about 8 minutes left, Werenski made an ill-advised pass in the neutral zone that was easily picked off. This led to a golden chance for Blake Wheeler right in front of Elvis. Wheeler skated in, tried a backhander, but Elvis snuffed it out.
Late in the period, a Jets player skated into Werenski’s stick and fell down. Z was called for tripping. About 5 seconds after that, Neal Pionk took a long shot from just inside the blue line that snuck past Elvis. No excuses can be made on that one – no screen, not a really hard shot, but it got through. That might have been Elvis’ first soft goal allowed since he took over for Joonas Korpisalo.
Even later in the period, the Blue Jackets earned a power play after Savvy had his stick knocked out of his hands. After a bit of cycling and pressure, PLD took a shot that just trickled through Brossoit’s pads. Just as the puck died short of the goal line, Gus Nyquist edged out a Jets defender to the puck! The game is tied! PLD and Werenski with the assists.
The period started and ended well, but it was a bit of a dud in the middle. Still, the game headed into the third all knotted up.
The 3rd period started with Nyquist flying all over the place. Goose was sharp on this night and a nifty pass created a good shooting opportunity for Alexander Wennberg. Both teams traded offensive pressure and scoring opportunities in what was a fast start to the final stanza.
About six minutes in, a rare Savard slapshot makes Brossoit work. A minute later, Elvis has to flash his own leather.
And right after that, Jones and Z said ‘eff you Jobu’ and tried to do it themselves on a 2 on 2, which forced a good save from Brossoit again.
The Jackets and Jets were pushing hard for that final goal. With nine minutes left, a Savvy turnover led to a prime scoring chance for the Jets, but Elvis wasn’t interested.
Late in the 3rd, Bjorkstrand received a pass from Jones and carried the puck into the zone. He fights through a check on the wall and wires a beauty near post into an awfully small spot. Bjorkstrand’s second goal of the night is also his 16th of the season. Despite missing 13 games, Oliver Bjorkstrand is the CBJ’s leading goal scorer headed into the ASG and bye week.
Brossoit left the net with just over two minutes left in the game. Maestro juuuuuust missed an ENG. The Jets kept up the pressure, Elvis didn’t wilt, and the period ended with the CBJ leading 4-3.
As it tends to be, the team leading after 3 periods wins in the NHL, so the CBJ won 4-3.
- Oliver Bjorkstrand seems to be playing at full speed. No ill-effects from his injury are noticeable. That’s great news
- Similarly, Emil Bemstrom was skating as fast as I’ve seen him. He looks 100% as well.
- Nutivaara has a darkened visor. I think that’s the first one I’ve seen in the NHL.
- Elvis Merzlikins has some darn good synergy going with his defensemen
- 16-2-4 heading into the break. That’s purty good.