It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Folks, the Blue Jackets certainly finished their chances tonight. The New Jersey Devils started strong, but the Blue Jackets got their wheels going, dominated the second period, and notched a 5-0 victory.
The Blue Jackets got an absolutely astounding performance in goal from Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped everything the Devils threw his way. Merzlikins saved all 41 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season. All three shutouts have come in his last four games.
Of course, head coach John Tortorella probably wanted a better start from the Blue Jackets, who allowed 21 shots on goal in the first period.
Despite a stumbling start, the Blue Jackets finished the first period with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Cam Atkinson (11), who is tearing it up after his return from a high-ankle sprain.
In the second frame, the Blue Jackets took advantage of great chances, scoring four times. Atkinson (12) scored again off of a nice feed from Emil Bemstrom, who was streaking out of the penalty box.
Then, Jakob Lilja (2) capitalized on a rebound to make it 3-0, Blue Jackets.
Just 16 seconds later, captain Nick Foligno (6) finished another rebound to make it 4-0. It was Foligno's second consecutive game with a goal.
The Devils pulled starting goaltender Cory Schneider after Schneider allowed four goals on 17 shots. Mackenzie Blackwood came in to finish the rest of the game, but the Blue Jackets weren't going to make it easy on him.
With just over a minute left in the second period, Alexander Wennberg (5) uncorked a wrist shot that beat Blackwood. The Blue Jackets took a 5-0 lead into the final 20 minutes.
The Blue Jackets played solid hockey in the third period and Elvis Merzlikins completed his shoutout. With the win tonight, the Blue Jackets have moved into the WC1 playoff spot — and they're just two points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Who would have thought?
Oliver Bjorkstrand (RW) has been practicing with the club and is getting close to making a return from a rib/cartilage contusion and an oblique strain.
Oliver Bjorkstrand tells FSO during the intermission that he's "right there" and "getting close" to a return to the lineup.— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) January 17, 2020
Said he's excited to join a Blue Jackets team that's in the thick of the playoff race. #CBJ
It's a quick turnaround, as the Blue Jackets will head to New York City to take on the New York Rangers. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 p.m.
- Columbus won its fourth-straight game. It’s the club’s second win streak of at least four games this season (5–0–0; Dec. 16–23).
- The Blue Jackets swept a three-game homestand for the second time this season (Nov. 15-21). Columbus has gone 7–1–1 in its last nine home games at Nationwide Arena.
- The Jackets have gone 14–2–4 (32 pts.) in its last 20 contests with the club’s 32 points and .800 points percentage since Dec. 9 both tops in the NHL.
- The Blue Jackets scored twice in a span of 16 seconds in the second period to take a 4-0 lead. It’s the fastest two goals scored this season. The previous best was on Oct. 7 vs. Buffalo, when Bjorkstrand (18:09) and Atkinson (19:05) struck 56 seconds apart in the first period.
- Columbus’ four goals in the second period are a season-high for a single period.
- Columbus went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill in the game. CBJ have killed off 24 of their last 25 penalties taken on home ice (96.0 pct.). Since Dec. 16, their 96.0 pct. kill rate in home games is first in the NHL.
- Tonight’s attendance was a sellout crowd of 18,680. It was the fourth sellout in the past six home contests.
- RW Cam Atkinson had two goals and an assist in the contest, marking the 16th time in his career he’s had at least three points in a game. He has 6-3-9 in his last eight contests and goals in five-straight games vs. the Devils (6-2-8). He finished plus-3 in the contest and picked up his 40th career game-winning goal.
- G Elvis Merzlikins notched his third shutout in his last four games (4–0–0, 0.50 GAA, .985 SV%). The 41 saves in the shutout are a new career-high and the most by a CBJ goaltender this season. In his last 10 starts, he has an 8-2-0 record with a 1.51 GAA and .955 SV% with three shutouts.
- LW Jakob Lilja scored his second goal of the season and first since Dec. 27 vs. Washington. He finished plus-1 in tonight’s contest and hasn’t finished a game with a minus since being recalled on Dec. 21 (plus-5).
- RW Nick Foligno scored his second goal in as many games, giving him a three-game point streak (2-1-3). He has four goals and is plus-7 in his last six home games vs. New Jersey.
- C Alexander Wennberg extended his point streak to four games with his third multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist (3-2-5).
- LW Nathan Gerbe had the primary assist on Atkinson’s first period goal, his fifth helper of the season. He has three assists in his last four games and 2-3-5 in his past seven contests.
- D David Savard had an assist on Atkinson’s first goal as well, for his eighth assist of the season. He has a three-game assist streak vs. New Jersey (0-3-3).
- RW Emil Bemstrom had an assist on Atkinson’s second period goal, giving him a four-game point streak (2-2-4). He had a five-game point streak earlier this season from Nov. 7-19 (3-3-6) that tied the club rookie record.
- D Vladislav Gavrikov had an assist (Foligno’s goal), giving him a career-high three-game assist streak (0-3-3). He has 2-5-7 in his last 14 contests and a two-game point streak vs. the Devils (1-1-2). He went plus-3 in the game, with his plus-17 since Dec. 5 the best in the NHL.
- D Zach Werenski picked up his 14th assist of the season on Wennberg’s goal. He has 2-4-6 and is plus-9 in his past nine contests vs. New Jersey.