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Blue Jackets honor Matiss, blast Coyotes 8-2

An emotional night ends in victorious thunder.

Arizona Coyotes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

With two teams entering transition, it was an electric and emotional night ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes at Nationwide Arena. Elvis Merzlikins made his first career opening night start, wearing No. 80 to honor Matiss Kivlenieks after Kivlenieks’s tragic passing this summer. Carter Hutton presided over the opposite net for Arizona.

Brad Larsen and André Tourigny each made their head coaching debuts and Boone Jenner ushered in a new era as the team’s seventh captain in history.

Alexandre Texier scored the first goal of 2021-22 with Max Domi making his presence felt, both physically and on the scoresheet with the assist. The goal 40 seconds in is the second-fastest goal in Blue Jackets opening night history.

Neither team did much with their first power play chances in the opening period, however, Columbus was able to do something on their second with 5:55 left. Oliver Bjorkstrand got the goal, Jakub Voráček and Zach Werenski got the assists.

The 2-0 score stood until the end of the frame with the Coyotes holding the 11-10 shots edge.

The second period started off with even faster fireworks, 35 seconds in, after Jenner’s goal, and the second assist for Domi. The play started when Domi was able to pick the play in the Coyotes zone and bring it up ice, around the back of the net, making Hutton scramble and leaving an empty net for Jenner to stuff home.

Arizona countered quickly, at 1:03 of the second, to cut the deficit to two. The former Blue Jacket Anton Stralman scored, with Johan Larsson and Lawson Crouse getting the assists. Larsen ended up not challenging the play as Merzlikins was bumped on the play by Larsson, who was knocked down by Vladislav Gavrikov down low.

Young Cole Sillinger had an opportunity in the slot stopped but a glimpse of excitement there.

Columbus would score again and again. First Bjorkstrand for his second with Jack Roslovic getting his turn on the scoresheet.

Then Jake Bean scoring his first, with Patrik Laine getting his first point and Voráček his second. Too many goals to keep with makes the GIF maker crazy.

A commanding 5-1 lead entering the final period is a surefire way to start the opener. Arizona held the 23-19 shots advantage. There was also a scrap in the period between Sean Kuraly and another old Blue Jacket in Ryan Dzingel.

The third-period play was understandably chippy with offsetting penalties for Eric Robinson’s roughing minor on Crouse and Crouse going off for slashing Robinson 54 seconds in. Domi picked the play at the blue line for a breakaway but missed the opportunity to make it 6-1 as the backhand shot was stopped.

The sixth goal instead came off Werenski’s first of the season, and the second on the power play for the Blue Jackets.

Look, it’s going to be a tough season for the Coyotes and this was a bad game for them. But at least they looked cool getting destroyed, wearing the awesome white Kachina sweaters.

Domi looked really good all night, scoring his first goal to go along with a three-point night and Cole Sillinger got in on the act with his first career NHL point.

Clayton Keller scored a late power play goal to make it 7-2. Newcomer to Arizona, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Phil Kessel assisted.

To cap off the night, Gustav Nyquist returned after missing all of last season, getting his first of the season to make it 8-2. Bjorkstrand capped off his four-point night.

There was also one more scrap for the evening.

Columbus ended the night 2-for-3 on the power play while Arizona was 1-for-4. Coyotes edge Columbus in shots 38-26. Fancy stats courtesy from Natural Stat Trick. Merzlikins stopped 36 of 38 shots while Hutton stopped 18 of 26.

Next up for Columbus is the expansion Seattle Kraken on Saturday, October 16 at 7 pm EST.

Additional Notes

Merzlikins wore No. 80 to honor Matiss Kivlenieks.

There were 13 different Blue Jackets getting points tonight, with Oliver Bjorkstrand (2-2) leading the way. The eight goals are the most in a Blue Jackets opener and the most since their 10-0 win on Nov. 4, 2016. Boone Jenner led forwards in ice-time (17:16). Andrew Peeke led the Blue Jackets overall (21:20). Jakob Chychrun led the game (23:16). The game was Kessel’s 901st consecutive game.

Personal note

It was a pleasure recapping game 1 of 82 of the 2021-22 season. This will also be my last for The Cannon as I pursue a new opportunity. The last four years have been a blast, interacting with all of you, the SB Nation community, and of course all of The Cannon staff. The Cannon Cast is the success it is because of all of you. Thank you to all of the readers and listeners. I’ll be around Twitter and I will always support the awesome Jackets Cannon.