Three Things: Emergency Reinforcements, Perfect Primeau, Merzlikins Didn't Have It

By Will Chase on March 13, 2024 at 8:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets' Elvis Merzlikins skates back to the locker room while looking towards the bench as Daniil Tarasov takes over the net against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at Bell Centre.
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets set a franchise record for shot attempts and still found a way to get shut out.

The Montreal Canadiens scored three goals in the first 5:48 to defeat the Blue Jackets 3-0 on Tuesday night at Bell Centre.

Brendan Gallagher, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Joshua Roy had the goals.

Jake Evans, Mike Matheson, Cole Caufield, Arber Xhekaj, and Alex Newhook had the assists. Newhook is on a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists).

Cayden Primeau pitched his second career shutout in the last four starts with 41 saves.

Elvis Merzlikins made one save on four shots. Daniil Tarasov made 19 saves in relief.

Emergency Reinforcements

The Blue Jackets found themselves shorthanded on Tuesday.

Kirill Marchenko missed the game with an illness, and Justin Danforth is out with a concussion, which he sustained in last Thursday's win over the Edmonton Oilers.

That provides opportunities for Brendan Gaunce and Carson Meyer on emergency recall with the Blue Jackets. They played on the fourth line with Mathieu Olivier.

Gaunce has been back and forth with the Blue Jackets since 2021-22, primarily playing with the Cleveland Monsters. He's played nine games this season for Columbus, most coming in December and January. Gaunce had one shot in 8:04 on Tuesday.

Meyer has 28 games at the NHL level for Columbus since 2021-22 as he made his season debut for Columbus on Tuesday. He had two shots in 9:55.

Trey Fix-Wolansky has played three games for the Blue Jackets this season, including Saturday's loss to the Nashville Predators. Fix-Wolansky has 18 career games under his belt at the NHL level. For the Monsters this season, Fix-Wolansky led in points (54), goals (23), and assists (31). Meyer was second with 22 goals.

In Tuesday's loss, Fix-Wolansky was second among Blue Jackets forwards with four shots in 14:58 — Alex Nylander led Blue Jackets forwards with five shots.

Yegor Chinakhov left Tuesday's game in the first period after sustaining an upper-body injury as the Blue Jackets injured list piles up. Sean Kuraly was not on the bench to start the third period but returned shortly after.

Perfect Primeau

Per the Bally Sports Ohio broadcast, the Canadiens entered Tuesday's game leading the league with 31 one-goal losses.

Since Feb. 12, 2022, the Blue Jackets had scored first against the Canadiens in seven straight games. Montreal came in losers in nine of their last eleven games.

Both trends were halted.

Primeau was perfect, stopping 41 Blue Jackets shots. In the first period alone, Columbus outshot Montreal 22-8 and had the edge in shot attempts 41-13. The Jackets were 0-for-3 on the power play with nine shots in the opening period.

Per the Blue Jackets broadcast, Columbus set a franchise record for shot attempts (98), surpassing their previous high (93) on Dec. 3, 2016, at the Arizona Coyotes. The 98-shot attempts are the most in a shutout loss since the NHL began tracking shot attempts in 2013-14. The 41 shots on goal were a season-high for Columbus.

For the game, the Blue Jackets had 11 shots on four power-play chances, and Montreal had 32 blocked shots.

Even though Columbus had most of the offensive chances, they couldn't solve Primeau and the Habs' defense.

Merzlikins Didn't Have It

Merzlikins came into Tuesday's game 3-3-0 (.905 SV%, 3.17 GAA) since Feb. 10, when Columbus started the second-half portion of their schedule.

After three goals — Gallagher (0:21), Slafkovsky (3:15, power play), and Roy (5:48) — scored by Montreal in the first 5:48, Merzlikins' night was over.

"I don't blame Elvis whatsoever," head coach Pascal Vincent said. "I don't think it's on him. I just wanted to change the momentum (pulling the goalie)."

Tarasov has been on a roll himself. Since Feb. 13, including Tuesday's performance, he's 3-4-0 with a .928 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average.

He continued the hot play as he stopped all 19 shots he faced.

Finale VS Senators

The Blue Jackets head home to Nationwide Arena for Thursday's series finale against the Ottawa Senators. Columbus is 1-1-0 against the Senators this season.

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