Still smarting from a back to back losses to Metropolitan Division opponents, the shorthanded Columbus Blue Jackets took the ice Monday night looking to break their losing streak against the New Jersey Devils, their third chance in a row at a divisional victory.
The Blue Jackets blue line suffered yet another blow to the lineup, adding Adam Boqvist to the injured list that already included Zach Werenski and Jake Bean.
#CBJ going with Elvis Merzlikins in net tonight vs. New Jersey. Boqvist out, Christiansen in.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) March 1, 2022
But! The #CBJ morning skate lines— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) March 1, 2022
No Boqvist skating today. Werenski still likely out but we’ll hear from Lars soon.
The Blue Jackets could be on the verge of getting some players back though, as Joonas Korpisalo and Zach Werenski skated at morning skate, while Eric Robinson and Jake Bean participated in drills. Any reinforcements would be welcome for the club at this point.
New Jersey, on the second night of a back to back, was seeking a second straight win following a 7-2 demolition of the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.
Here’s what happened.
It took the Devils just eight seconds to go on the power play as Vladislav Gavrikov was sent to the box for tripping. Jesper Bratt walked through the defense and Gavrikov was forced to haul him down to prevent a golden scoring chance. The Devils were able to set up in the offensive zone following a faceoff and, after a save and a failed clearance by Andrew Peeke, Merzlikins was unable to secure the loose puck and it was jammed into the net just 56 seconds into the game. Dreadful start.
New Jersey goal (0-1): Hischier from Severson and Hughes, 0:56
Scoring change! New Jersey goal (0-1): Hughes from Bastian and Severson, 0:54
Boone Jenner responded with a half-breakaway a few minutes later, but his shot went high and wide of the net. Defensively, the Jackets continued to hemorrhage chances as the Devils were allowed to fire shot after shot at Merzlikins with little resistance. Elvis made a massive stop following a cross-crease pass after the Jackets turned the puck over below their goal line to keep the deficit at one with just over five minutes gone. Through the first 10 minutes of the game, the Devils dominated all over the ice, leading in shots 11-4 and all-situation attempts 19-8 (15-7 at 5v5).
After a Merzlikins save and a collision with the goaltender, the Jackets finally showed some signs of life as Gavin Bayreuther and Nathan Bastin dropped the gloves, injecting some life into a quiet Nationwide Arena crowd.
With 6:52 to go in the period, Columbus finally got on the scoreboard as Jake Christiansen tied the game at one. Justin Danforth shook the puck loose after a hit below the net and Christiansen capitalized on a cross-ice pass and buried it for his first career NHL goal.
Columbus goal (1-1): Christiansen from Sillinger and Domi, 13:08
After allowing 11 shots on goal in the first ten minutes, Columbus’ defensive system tightened up and allowed just one over the next six minutes. Better performance from a patchwork group.
With 2:25 to go in the period, Columbus took their first lead of the night as Oliver Bjorkstrand finished a play and scored his second in two nights. Jakub Voracek found Bjorkstrand opening up in front of goal and Bjorkstrand rifled the puck past Daws into the New Jersey net.
Columbus goal (2-1): Bjorkstrand from Voracek and Roslovic, 17:35
PLAY THAT MUSIC, MAESTRO! pic.twitter.com/lGpZf7sdHO— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 2, 2022
Seconds later, Max Domi was sent to the box for high sticking, giving New Jersey a chance to tie the game once again. With 1:13 remaining in th period, Dougie Hamilton attempted to walk around Boone Jenner who was making a defensive play, but Hamilton hauled down Jenner and nullified the power play. For 52 seconds, the teams played four on four.
The first period came to an end with Columbus leading 2-1 on the scoreboard but trailing in shots 15-9. Columbus would begin the second period with 47 seconds of power play time.
The Blue Jackets offense picked up right where it left off, with Boone Jenner capitalizing on the short power play to extend the home team’s lead to After Laine’s shot drew iron, Jenner capitalized on the rebound.
Blue Jackets goal (3-1): Jenner from Laine and Voracek, 0:46
The Blue Jackets offense continued to put pressure on the Devils, drawing even in shots on net just shy of halfway through the second period. The teams continued to trade chances through the middle part of the period, but both goalies stood tall in net. New Jersey began to push late in the period, but Elvis Merzlikins was equal to several challenging shots from Jack Hughes.
With four minutes to go in the second, the Devils were rewarded for their pressure, Nico Hischier took a long pass trying to stretch the defense out and succeeded, and Hischier be Peeke to the spot and then beat Merzlikins high to make it a one goal game.
New Jersey goal (2-3): Hischier from Severson and McLeod, 16:00
Columbus earned a power play just 37 seconds later, but were unable to do anything with it. The Devils pressured for an equalizer late in the period but, despite 45 seconds of sustained pressure, were unable to find the tying goal. The Jackets led 3-2 after 40 minutes.
Just 1:18 into the third period, Patrik Laine restored the two goal lead from columbus. Laine carried the puck over the blue line, toe dragged through the New Jersey defense, and finished it past Daws for his 20th of the season. Unbelievable goal.
Columbus goal (4-2): Laine from Jenner and Carlsson, 1:18
After a bad cross ice pass and turnover by Gabriel Carlsson, the Devils were set up for a gorgeous chance but Elvis Merzlikins made an outrageous save to keep the lead at two. That was an absolutely abysmal decision by Carlsson that led to that sequence and frankly he shouldn’t play the next game for it regardless of the injury situation.
The Devils earned a power play at 5:06 as Vladislav Gavrikov was penalized a second time for tripping. The Devils were able to capitalize late as a rush up the ice with Andrew Peeke screening Elvis slightly saw Pavel Zacha beat Elvis just after the power play expired. Two penalties for Gavrikov, two goals allowed on the ensuing power plays (or one second after one of them ended, but still).
New Jersey goal (3-4): Zacha from Mercer and Hamilton, 7:07
The teams continued to trade chances through the middle portion of the period, but neither was able to find a real high danger chance. With 6:58 to go, Voracek led a break into the offensive zone but his backhand attempt was muffed and Daws was able to turn it away with ease in the first real dangerous chance for either side since the Devils goal.
With 2:09 to go, New Jersey pulled their netminder as they were looking for the tying goal. With 46.6 seconds to go, Gavrikov took his THIRD minor penalty of the night, high sticking Dawson Mercer. The Blue Jackets were able to weather the storm, however, and finished the game 4-3 winners.
New Jersey Devils 3 Columbus Blue Jackets 4
The Blue Jackets blue line is extremely banged up, but you cannot, under any circumstances, start a game puck watching a take a penalty less than ten seconds in. On the power play, you have to be better about getting the puck away from the front of the crease - don’t look for something fancy, just get it away. Simple plays that the defensemen on the ice simply were not making, but should have even with injuries considered.
Stick taps to Jake Christiansen on his first NHL goal.
Stick taps as well to Max Domi, whose assist on Christiansen’s goal was the 300th of his NHL career.
Boone Jenner now leads the team with 23 goals on the season, just as we all predicted. Jenner also has his first 20-20 season of his career. Also, Jakub Voracek has 40 points, 38 of them assists.
Patrik Laine now leads the NHL in goals since the All Star Break. He’s been on a heater, and is showing what he can be for this club. Here’s hoping the team finds a way to extend him to a long term deal - I’ve been wary in the past of giving long term deals, but Laine’s goal scoring talent is singular and something you can build around.
Vladislav Gavrikov had a very bad night. Two penalties that directly led to goals, puck watching early in the first period, a dreadful penalty late in the game when he should have known better, and not noticeable enough defensively when he wasn’t in the box. With all the injuries to the defensemen, the Jackets cannot afford those types of nights from Gavrikov.
A terribly inconsistent night from the club, but they found a way to get it done. With Gaunce going out early due to injury (he played just five shifts) and a bad night from your best-remaining defensemen, the Jackets put together just enough to get the win. There were spurts, and some extended stretches of solid defensive play, and Elvis made big saves when he needed to. It goes down as two points in the book, but it wasn’t pretty.
The Columbus Blue Jackets continue their homestand Friday night as they take on the Los Angeles Kings at Nationwide Arena. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM EDT.