Three Things: Reinforcements Needed, The Thrill That Is Kirill, Merzlikins Returns And Leaves

By Will Chase on March 25, 2023 at 10:15 pm
Montreal Canadiens' Rafael Harvey-Pinard celebrates with teammate Mike Hoffman and Kirby Dach after scoring his third goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at the Bell Centre.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

A rough one north of the border.

Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored his first career hat trick to lead the Montreal Canadiens over the Columbus Blue Jackets, 8-2, on Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The loss snaps Columbus' two-game winning streak.

Nick Suzuki had four points with a goal and three assists and is on a four-game point streak (two goals, eight assists). Mike Hoffman had three points with a goal and two assists. Jesse Ylonen and Brendan Gallagher each had a goal and an assist. Alex Belzile had one goal.

Mike Matheson had three assists to continue a three-game point streak (one goal, four assists). Joel Edmundson, Jake Evans, Johnathan Kovacevic, and Jordan Harris also had assists.

Lane Pederson and Kirill Marchenko scored for the Blue Jackets.

Kent Johnson, Jack Roslovic, Andrew Peeke, and Gavin Bayreuther picked up the assists. Johnson is on a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists) as is Roslovic (two goals, three assists).

Sam Montembeault stopped 21 of 23 shots.

Elvis Merzlikins made 18 saves on 24 shots and left in the second period due to an injury. Michael Hutchinson made six saves on eight shots.

The Blue Jackets have allowed the most hat tricks (six) this season. Harvey-Pinard is the fifth rookie in Canadiens history to record three goals in a period. Andrew Peeke had three blocked shots to set a franchise single-season record for the Blue Jackets with 173 and counting. Ryan Murray had 171 in 2015-16. The Canadiens are 3-9-1 in their last 13 games and take the season series versus Columbus 2-1-0.

Reinforcements Needed

Following Friday's 5-4 overtime win against the New York Islanders, and losing more players to injury in the process, the Blue Jackets recalled Trey Fix-Wolansky and Jake Christiansen for Saturday's game.

Mathieu Olivier (lower body) and Erik Gudbranson (upper body) were both injured on Friday and did not travel to Montreal. Nick Blankenburg (lower body) was not necessarily going to return to Friday's game but ended up returning in the third period.

All of this on the heels of Parik Laine missing Friday's contest after sustaining a triceps strain during Thursday's practice and is slated to miss 2-to-4 weeks.

Fix-Wolansky has now appeared in five games for Columbus this season and has not registered a point. He's been tearing up the AHL for the Cleveland Monsters, leading the Monsters in points (67), goals (26), and assists (41) in 53 games.

Christiansen has two assists in 19 games for Columbus. For Cleveland, he's seventh in points (29), fourth in assists (21), and ninth in goals (eight) in 43 games.

On Saturday, Fix-Wolansky played 13:19 with one shot, one blocked shot, and two hits. Christiansen played 19:05 with two blocked shots and one hit.

The Thrill That Is Kirill

Marchenko's game-tying goal at 18:00 in the first period was waived off initially by the officials as the net was dislodged on the play. Montembeault dislodged the left post with his skate and after a review, it was deemed that the puck was over the red line prior to the net coming off its moorings.

Now with 19 goals, Marchenko trails only Pierre-Luc Dubois (20, 2017-18) for the most goals by a Blue Jackets rookie.

Merzlikins Returns And Leaves

Saturday's start in the crease was Merzlikins' first game action since Mar. 7 when he left the loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after the first period due to illness. He missed the next six games due to a personal matter in Latvia and was the backup for Friday's game.

A struggle of a year for Merzlikins, his game began to pick up prior to his absence from the team. Following the extended layoff, it was another clunker tonight after allowing six goals, four in the second, and leaving the game due to an injury. It was a 2-2 game after one period.

Hutchinson, who picked up his first win in nearly two years (Apr. 4, 2021) on Friday night against the Islanders, came into relief for the Blue Jackets. He's now made eight appearances for Columbus already since the trade from the Vegas Golden Knights on Mar. 2.

Columbus has been outscored 32-20 over the last five games.

Garden Party

The Blue Jackets are in New York to battle the Rangers on Tuesday, Mar. 28 at 7:00 pm ET from Madison Square Garden. The Blue Jackets are 1-1-0 against the Rangers this season with two games in the series remaining. New York beat the Florida Panthers, 4-3, on Saturday at FLA Live Arena.