Merzlikins records 2nd shutout; Columbus beats Boston 3-0
By Nicole Kraft
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Elvis the King, make way for Elvis the Wall.
Elvis Merzlikins recorded his second consecutive shutout and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins 3-0 Tuesday night for their fourth win in five games.
Alexander Wennberg, Kevin Stenlund and Riley Nash scored for Columbus.
Merzlikins won for the sixth time in his eight starts and turned aside all 34 shots he faced. His five wins since Dec. 31 tie him for the NHL lead with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“Tonight the team worked really hard,” Merzlikins said. “They tried to cut the chances for Boston. I think the team did a bigger part than me tonight. It’s a team shutout. They did a big job blocking the shots, so thank you to them.”
Boston goaltender Jaroslav Halak entered the game at 1:12 of the first period after Tukka Rask was inadvertently struck in the head by an elbow in the crease. Halak stopped 24 shots in relief as the Bruins lost their second straight and were shut out for the first time this season.
Wennberg got the Blue Jackets offense going, taking a feed from Vladislav Gabrikov off a pass from Nathan Gerbe at 13:27 of the first period and beat Halak through the pads. The goal was the fourth of the season for Wennberg and his second in two games after a 35-game scoring drought.
The assist was the fourth point in five games for Gerbe, who three weeks ago was playing for the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League.
“I didn’t like the way we defended,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Two defensemen got beat one-on-one. Something you’ve got to be able to do is play your one-on-ones. The puck then beat (Halak) on the ice through the legs. He’ll tell you right now that was not a good goal.”
Stenlund gave the Jackets breathing room with a power-play goal at 5:46 of the third, blasting a one-timer off a behind-the-net pass from Nick Foligno.
“That was a big goal, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “It’s all about momentum. ... To go up 2-0 in that type of game, it’s a fairly big goal.”
Nash sealed the win at 13:05 with an unassisted shot from the left circle.
“Our team is playing like a team and that’s why we are winning,” Foligno said.
NOTES: The Blue Jackets have given up two goals in their last three games. ... Columbus coach John Tortorella is one win from 200 for his Blue Jackets’ career. ... Boston’s Matt Grzelcyk was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
Columbus: Hosts Carolina on Thursday.
Boston: Hosts Pittsburgh on Thursday.