Feb. 16-- NEWARK, N.J.-It's about belief and the Blue Jackets are trying to keep theirs high amid an ongoing slew of injuries that includes Seth Jones.
Carrying a 0-2-2 record in their previous four games into a Metropolitan Division matchup Sunday against the New Jersey Devils, the Jackets were looking for more than just a victory at Prudential Center. They were looking for proof that what they did in 26 games between Dec. 9 and Feb. 7-going 19-2-5 despite a plethora of injured players-wasn't just a fluke.
Well, they found it, earning a point in a 4-3 shootout loss despite blowing a 2-0 lead for the second time in three games.
"I'm into the points now," coach John Tortorella said prior to the game. "Remember, this league, if you can get one point, that's what I'm most concerned about, when we haven't had many games for quite a while that we haven't gotten a point. We can't let that happen too often."
They didn't thanks to a huge goal by rookie Kevin Stenlund at 8:45 of the third period, which tied it 3-3 and saved them from losing a point after giving up their two-goal lead. Along with Stenlund's goal, the Blue Jackets got goals by defensemen Andre Peeke and Zach Werenski in regulation.
Elvis Merzlikins made 23 saves, including some fantastic stops in overtime.
Joey Anderson, Nick Merkley and Kyle Palmieri scored goals for the Devils, who got 52 saves in an outstanding performance by goalie MacKenzie Blackwood, who made one more save than Merzlikins in a shootout that lasted seven rounds.
"Like I just told the team, we went through almost a quarter of the year without losing in regulation and gaining points," Tortorella said. "Our biggest battle now is, you can't lose that belief, as far as how we play and that we can (win), because people (are) waiting for ... everybody always talks about the injuries, this, that and the other things: 'Yeah, they aren't going to be able to sustain it.' We can't lose our belief. That's the biggest key."
Getting points goes a long way toward that goal, which is why this result was important despite a fifth straight defeat (0-2-3).
Peeke scored at 2:28 and Werenski at 6:19 of the first to provide a 2-0 lead-including the first of Peeke's NHL career-but the Devils roared back, scoring three unanswered goals of their own in the second.
Anderson cut the Columbus lead to 2-1 at 1:20 of the second, Merkley tied it 2-2 at 3:51 and Palmieri put the Devils in front at 11:55 to stun the Blue Jackets. It looked like another good start would be wasted for the Jackets-who outshot New Jersey 20-15 in the second and 55-26 overall-but Stenlund finally got one past Blackwood.
Scott Harrington forced a turnover at the New Jersey blue line to keep the puck in the Devils' zone and the Blue Jackets turned it into a huge goal. Oliver Bjorkstrand found Stenlund with a pass to the slot and the rookie forward beat Blackwood with a wrist shot past the glove.
It was a lift the Blue Jackets needed after letting their lead slip away, but didn't help them score another one to avoid overtime or the shootout, which Jesper Bratt won by leading off the seventh round with a wrist shot Merzlikins couldn't stop.
(c) 2020The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.