Hot Jackets continue homestand vs. Wings

NHL Hockey

The Columbus Blue Jackets have become masters at winning close games, particularly against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Blue Jackets are 8-0-1 over their past nine games and continue a four-game homestand against Detroit on Friday.

Columbus’ past five games have been decided by one goal, most recently a 1-0 overtime triumph over Florida on Tuesday. Zach Werenski scored the game-winner, increasing the team’s point streak against Eastern Conference teams to 17 games. The Blue Jackets are 13-0-4 during that span.

“I thought it was one of our better games we’ve played offensively and defensively,” coach John Tortorella said. “We just kept our patience. It took us longer than the 60, but we found a way to win.”

It’s easier to be patient when a team has a hot goalie. Elvis Merzlikins recorded his fourth shutout in 13 starts by making 32 saves.

“We want to get to the playoffs,” he told NHL.com. “That’s our goal, and we want to just run away from the teams who are below us.”

Werenski leads all NHL defensemen with 16 goals. He was more impressed by his teammates’ collective effort to keep the Panthers from scoring.

“I thought our D had good gaps, and we just played a good, solid game,” he told NHL.com. “That’s how we have to play. We’re going to win a lot of hockey games if we do that.”

Columbus can complete a sweep of the three-game season series against the Red Wings on Friday. The Blue Jackets won the first meeting on Nov. 21, 5-4, after scoring three unanswered goals in the third period. Columbus’ 5-3 victory in Detroit on Dec. 17 unfolded in similar fashion, as the Jackets scored the last three goals of the game.

The Blue Jackets will host Colorado on Saturday and Tampa Bay on Monday to complete the homestand.

The Wings snapped a nine-game winless streak with a 4-3 shootout victory in Buffalo on Thursday. Dylan Larkin scored two goals in regulation and another during the shootout. It was Larkin’s first multigoal game since March 28 of last season.

Detroit was shut out in its previous two games, but Larkin’s two first-period goals had a calming effect. Tyler Bertuzzi put the Wings back on top in the third period after Buffalo had tied the score, but the Sabres scored again in the final minute of regulation.

Defenseman Gustav Lindstrom made his NHL debut and played 12 minutes.

“He seems to be a fairly unflappable young guy, pretty easygoing and doesn’t seem like much affects him, doesn’t seem to get too nervous,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s not nervous around coaches; he’s pretty relaxed. Those are the types of people who are generally able to come in and get right away to their game.”

Forward Taro Hirose also was recalled from Grand Rapids and played nearly 15 minutes. Hirose was demoted in late November after contributing just two goals and five assists in 23 games. He had seven points in 10 games late last season.

“I think you always want to do well, and having that success in the back of my mind, you want to try and match that,” Hirose told NHL.com. “When things weren’t really going well for me at the start of the season, you start doubting yourself. So just to go down and get some confidence was big.”

–Field Level Media

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