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Game #52 Recap: Blue Jackets do enough to edge Canadiens, 4-3

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PLD with two big goals in his home province

Columbus Blue Jackets v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored two goals and the Columbus Blue Jackets won the biggest sporting event on the calendar Sunday, toppling the Montreal Canadiens in gritty 4-3 road victory.

Dubois posted a three-point afternoon as Vladislav Gavrikov and Gustav Nyquist scored for the CBJ. Elvis Merzlikins made 27 saves on 30 shots to earn the win. Tomas Tatar scored a goal and and assist for the Canadiens while Carey Price stopped 23 of 26 shots. Neither team scored on their two power plays, and Columbus actually held Montreal to zero total shots on the man advantage.

The Blue Jackets scored the game’s first two goals and traded scores with Montreal the rest of the way.

We’ve all seen this game before: the Blue Jackets fell short on 5v5 scoring chances (37 to 21), expected goals (1.52 to 1.08), CF% (64.36 to 35.64) and a host of other metrics...and still won. They made the most of the chances they got and they won. They didn’t threaten—at all—for long periods of time and they won. It was an afternoon road game on Super Bowl Sunday, so this was the kind of effort you take and celebrate getting two points out of. Elvis was mostly great, the defense was pretty good and the Blue Jackets won. Good stuff!

Bad news: Alexander Wennberg did not return to the game after the second intermission and the club reported an upper body injury. The team returns home to host Florida on Tuesday night.

First Period

Montreal pressed Columbus for the first half of the opening period. The CBJ didn’t possess the puck much during a long, fast stretch where play rolled on without a stoppage, leading the Canadiens to a 6-1 shot edge at the first media timeout. Elvis held strong, though, making a huge save on Max Domi to keep the game scoreless and the Blue Jackets in it.

Columbus broke through at the 12:45 mark. A strong forecheck from Nick Foligno pushed the puck deep in the Montreal end, allowing the CBJ to change lines. Pierre-Luc Dubois retrieved the puck from the corner and worked it to Oliver Bjorkstrand, who found Gavrikov for a clean look.

1-0 Blue Jackets, Gavirkov (5) from Bjorkstrand (12) and Dubois (25) at 12:45

Nick Foligno had a Nick Foligno game and came up big several times on Sunday. He didn’t get credit on the stat sheet for helping out here, but he deserves some recognition.

Dale Weise slashed David Savard a few minutes later to give the Blue Jackets their first power play. No goals for Columbus on the advantage, thanks in part to a huge stop from Carey Price to deny Cam Atkinson on the doorstep.

Shots evened out through the first (10-10) and Columbus to a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Second Period

The second got off to a curious start with a weird play in the first minute. A Tomas Tatar shot snuck through Elvis and hit the post, prompting Elvis to snow angel as the puck bounced around the crease. Though the puck was swept away from danger, the horn went off and the Canadiens began to celebrate despite the official emphatically saying “no goal.”

Similarly to the first period, Columbus couldn’t seem to sustain any offense—but capitalized on most of the chances it did get. With the play behind the CBJ net, Nick Foligno swept the puck around the boards to a waiting Dubois at the blue line. PLD took off and, easy as you please, beat Carey Price to extend the visitors’ lead. That is some kind of speed and finish.

2-0 Blue Jackets, Dubois (16) from Foligno (16) and Werenski (16) at 3:31

From there, Elvis took over. The Latvian wonder was forced to bail his team out multiple times as Montreal fired in shots from all over. He did get a respite when Tatar went off for slashing, but an abysmal power play—that even featured a CBJ icing—didn’t add another goal.

In fact, Montreal scored seconds after the penalty’s expiration. PLD turned the puck over at the Columbus blue line, allowing Gallagher to find Tatar for a snipe over Elvis’s glove. Rough series of events.

2-1 Blue Jackets, Tatar (20) from Gallagher (18) and Suzuki (23) at 9:18

Fun moment when Sonny Milano and Phillip Danault mixed it up in front of the benches. Milano sorta kinda threw a punch and they both sat for two minutes (he was checked in the back by Gallagher, to be fair). Happy to have him back in the lineup (not being sarcastic).

Again—though Columbus could not generate shots, the shots they did create managed to go in. PLD scored his second of the afternoon late in the period, taking advantage of a puck bouncing off Carey Price by taking it behind the net for a successful wraparound. Dubois LOVES playing against Montreal.

3-1 Blue Jackets, Dubois (17) unassisted at 17:52

David Savard went to the box for holding in the final minute, but Montreal could not score before the horn.

Rough period, but all that matters is putting the puck in the net.

Third Period

The Blue Jackets killed off the rest of the penalty and needed a big stop from Elvis a few minutes later.

Columbus was content to play defense and hold onto its lead, but Oliver Bjorkstrand made things difficult by taking a hooking penalty at 13:13.

The penalty kill was up to the task, holding the Habs to zero shots and even creating a golden mini-breakaway chance for Boone Jenner on the other end.

The Habs did find the back of the net less than a minute after the penalty ended, however. Max Domi found some space by the faceoff dot and fired it through a boatload of traffic in front of Elvis to cut the CBJ’s lead in half. Not a surprising goal, given ow things had been going.

3-2 Blue Jackets, Domi (13) from Chariot (10) and Cousins (11) at 15:52

Montreal pulled Carey Price with a few minutes to go. A great effort from Gustav Nyquist to break up the play in the neutral zone allowed him to field a long pass from Seth Jones and score an empty netter.

4-2 Blue Jackets, Nyquist (12) from Jones (24) at 18:07 (EN)

You’d be forgiven in thinking Nyquist’s goal capped the scoring. In fact, Montreal set up in the CBJ end and a monster shot from Shea Weber snuck through Elvis’s five-hole to pull the Habs back within one at 18:59.

4-3 Blue Jackets, Weber (13) from Kovalchuk (11) and Tatar (29) at 18:59

Elvis hung tough in the final minute, allowing the CBJ to head back home with two points.