The Columbus Blue Jackets faced the Nashville Predators at home during First Responders Night starting off this final week of the regular season. Nashville has clawed their way back into the playoffs, with just three points ahead of the Dallas Stars. The goalie match-up featured Elvis Merzlikins versus Juuse Saros, the latter likely in the Vezina conversation with the best goalie record since March 15.
Nashville came out buzzing in the first period, with a hooking penalty by Vladislav Gavrikov putting them on the power play. The Blue Jackets not only successfully killed the penalty, but seemed to find their offense afterwards with multiple quality shots. At 8:07, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm was called for interference, and the Blue Jackets’ 29th ranked power play saw some beautiful chances by Oliver Bjorkstrand. Nashville’s Erik Haula breakaway goal attempt was denied by Elvis, but would repeat deja vu during the Blue Jackets second power play later in the period. Many words have been spoken about the Blue Jackets’ power play, but the second one tonight could arguably have been the worst in a while. Overall, Elvis was fantastic, with about even shots taken by both teams.
Second periods just makes me sad. It started chaotically, with lots of errant passes, miscues and turnovers. Merzlikins had a scramble save early on. A Mikko Lehtonen-Gavrikov give-and-go almost landed in the back of our net. At 10:59, an Elvis rebound from Ryan Ellis’ shot caught Gavin Beyreuther sleeping, allowing Filip Forsberg to net his 12th goal this season. Then all went downhill. Nashville took advantage of an uncharacteristic Seth Jones delay of game, with a score by none other than Ryan Johansen (only his 6th of the season). The ice continued to be tilted as the second period woes continued. With under a minute left in the period, defenseman Roman Josi scored after the Jackets failed to clear the puck from the zone. To further this pain, Michael Del Zotto shouldered a crouching Nick Cousins into the boards, and was called for roughing. The replay, however, focused on Patrik Laine getting nailed into the boards earlier, in front of the ref, with no call, clearly trying to demonstrate inconsistency.
I have two words for the third period: Emil Bemstrom. After the Jackets successfully killed off the Del Zotto penalty, Bemstrom netted a rebound chance after a major blue paint scramble, ending Saros’ shut-out streak.
Bemstrom’s goal was his first of the season, but at 12:34, he scored his second after some tenacious whacking by Mikhail Grigorenko. So good to see the bench cam celebration again.
Bemstrom honored his pre-game spotlight by finishing off the period with a beautiful angle goal, completing his first NHL hat trick, which allowed the Blue Jackets to overcome a 3 goal deficit. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
3️⃣ GOALS ON THE SEASON— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) May 4, 2021
3️⃣ GOALS ON THE NIGHT
There was some nail biting at the end of the game, as the Blue Jackets killed off a Dean Kukan high sticking penalty.
Onward to overtime! Bemstrom was rewarded with the start. Elvis thwarted an early Forsberg breakaway. The Nationwide crowd booed Nashville for stalling, but to no avail. With 1:36 remaining, Josi pulled a vintage Jones and scored the overtime winner.
Takeaways: For the Blue Jackets, unless your name is Emil Bemstrom, you’re having trouble scoring. This has been discussed ad nauseam. Laine is lacking his power. Atkinson is quiet. Jones is busy defending. The Blue Jackets should be scouting any and all leagues for anyone who can score. But for now, congratulation to Emil. Elvis had fantastic moments that kept us in the game. I appreciate that he wants to play the pluck, but please do it faster.
Spoiler chance #1 was unsuccessful, but fun to watch. The Blue Jackets showed resilience. Chance #2 is on Wednesday when we’re again back at Nationwide against Nashville.