What a difference a day makes.
On the same day that the Columbus Blue Jackets freed themselves of the Pierre-Luc Dubois debacle, acquiring elite winger Patrik Laine in the process, they were able to pick up their best win of the shortened season: a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks to the benefit of games played, the Blue Jackets and Lightning are now tied for first place in the temporary Discover Central division.
Here are three takeaway's from a dominant afternoon at Nationwide Arena.
There was a cloud over this team in the first five games, and it was getting darker by the day. If Saturday was any indication, trading Dubois immediately replaced those darkening storm clouds with sunshine Tampa Bay must have brought with them from the Sunshine State.
Five different Blue Jackets scored and 14 players registered a point in the win, with Eric Robinson's empty netter in the final two minutes making him the only player to have a multi-point day. That's not a bad thing though; the Blue Jackets were playing team hockey all afternoon, looking for each other and playing with energy they haven't had since the postseason bubble in August. Nick Foligno stayed hot with his third score of the year, Zach Werenski scored his first of the year, and Mikhail Grigorenko tallied his first goal as a Blue Jacket to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead.
Even Vladislav Gavrikov joined in the fun.
Now, take today, and add Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic into the mix in the very near future. This could get fun.
Perhaps no one looks more improved this season than Alexandre Texier. With the Blue Jackets up just one early in the 3rd period, the 21-year-old found Zach Werenski on a perfect pass to give Columbus some much-needed breathing room.
"It's a good thing, but I have to do it again the next game," said Texier when asked about the assist. So far, he's found a way to do it on a regular basis: Tex has points in 4 of 6 games, with three goals and two assists. He is one of two Blue Jackets with five points through the first six games of the season; Oliver Bjorkstrand being the other.
FIRST ELVIS SIGHTING OF 2021
After pedestrian starts in his first two games, Elvis Merzlikins delivered his best performance of 2021 by stopping 30 of 32 shots against the Lightning's high-octane offense. Victor Hedman scored early for Tampa Bay and the Lightning added a power-play goal in the final minute of the 1st period, but that was it for the defending Stanley Cup champions. With Columbus up one after the opening period, Merzlikins went into lockdown mode and did not allow a goal in the last 40 minutes.
Elvis Merzlikins: "I'm really happy that my first win this year came earlier than last year." #CBJ— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 23, 2021
Same here, Elvis.