Elvis Merzlikins Stifles Lightning; Leads Blue Jackets To Huge Win

By Jacob Nitzberg on March 30, 2021 at 10:53 pm
Mar 30, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) and defenseman David Savard (58) celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Talk about a mood swing.

The Blue Jackets got dunked on twice by the Red Wings last weekend, and they headed into a matchup with the buzzsaw that is the Lightning tonight struggling mightily. On paper, it didn't look good.

Enter Elvis Merzlikins. 

The Latvian netminder turned aside 37 of the 38 shots he saw tonight, propelling the Blue Jackets to a 3-1 win over the Lightning at Amalie Arena. It was a performance that was necessary for the Blue Jackets, as they were outshot 21-38 on the night. Joonas Korpisalo is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury, which leaves the door wide open for Merzlikins to make his case as the unquestioned starter. His game tonight certainly aided that case, as he made stop after stop on an offensively potent Lightning squad.

The only goal he conceded was a fluke, too. Mathieu Joseph deflected a shot from Luke Schenn, but the deflection was going well wide of Merzlikins' net before it pinballed off Vladislav Gavrikov and in.

"This game wasn't perfect. I know where I made mistakes. I'm gonna look at videos with Manny (Legace), and get better," said the ever-humble Merzlikins postgame. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it was just about was close as you can get, minus the unfortunate deflection. As long as Korpisalo remains out, Merzlikins will certainly enjoy the run of games he'll get as the unquestioned starter. His current backup is Cam Johnson, who has never played in an NHL game.

"When [Korpisalo and I] have this chance to play consistently, we can get dangerous," said Merzlikins. "From my side, I know that if I am going to keep playing and I am going to feel great...I know that I can get dangerous."

Savard Scores?!?!

There's something about David Savard playing against the Lightning. The last time that Savard scored a goal in the NHL, we hadn't rung in the new decade yet. Yes, that's right. His goal in the ECQF against the Lightning, when he embarrassed Victor Hedman and went top shelf, was his last goal for the Blue Jackets. That was April 10th, 2019.

Tonight, the beautifully-bearded defenseman tallied his first goal since that fateful night, courtesy of a beautiful feed from Alexandre Texier. It would end up being the game-winning goal.

"It definitely felt good. It's been a little while," Savard said with a chuckle. "It was a big goal at the time so it's always fun. It's a big win for us (and) that's all that matters...I think all of the guys were rooting for me to get one soon."

John Tortorella was happy for Savard too, and he praised Texier's play to get him the puck.

"Really good play by Tex, obviously a big goal. It's good to see Savvy chip in there," said Tortorella.

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