EditorsNote: Adds Merzlikins detail (2nd graf); multiple corrections in 3rd graf; corrects shot/save totals in 6th graf; adds missing word “pass” in 8th graf;
Columbus rookie goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stopped 41 shots for this third shutout of the season, and the Blue Jackets defeated the visiting New Jersey Devils 5-0 on Saturday night for their fourth straight win.
With No. 1 goaltender Joonas Korpisalo sidelined by a knee injury, Merzlikins has posted shutouts in three of his last four games, with the only exception when he allowed two goals on 34 shots to Carolina in Thursday’s win.
Cam Atkinson scored twice, and Jakob Lilja, Nick Foligno and Alexander Wennberg also scored for Columbus, which is 14-2-4 in its past 20 games. The Blue Jackets are 7-1-1 in the past eight home games, outscoring the opposition 30-12.
Atkinson, who added an assist, has five points (three goals, two assists) in two games since returning after missing 12 games with an ankle sprain.
Devils starter Cory Schneider allowed four goals on 17 shots before being pulled in favor of Mackenzie Blackwood. After two relief appearances this week, Schneider was making his first NHL start since Nov. 8.
Blackwood, who had missed four games with an upper-body injury, stopped 13 of 14 shots for the Devils, who have lost three straight and are 2-5-1 in their past eight games as they enter the bye week.
Atkinson made it 1-0 at 14:49 of the first period on the rush when he crossed the blue and fired a wrist shot between two defensemen that eluded Schneider glove side.
The Blue Jackets led 2-0 after Atkinson took a pass from Emil Bemstrom on the rush and fired a wrist shot just inside the post at 8:40 of the second period.
Columbus broke it open with two goals 16 seconds apart midway through the period.
Lilja made it 3-0 when he knocked in his own rebound at 11:58, then Foligno knocked in a loose puck in front of Schneider at 12:14 for his second goal in two games.
The Blue Jackets increased the lead to 5-0 with 1:06 left in the period when Wennberg took a pass from Atkinson on the rush and scored on wrist shot from the top of the left circle.
—Field Level Media