The Columbus Dispatch
Young Blue Jackets learn painful lessons
Saturday marked the second time in as many games against Carolina that the Blue Jackets were left with a stinging reminder of their status as a team looking to build for the future.
The Hurricanes are at a point where the Blue Jackets hope to be in a couple of years, which can get clouded sometimes with a resurgent effort by Columbus to stay competitive in the short term. A playoff appearance by the Blue Jackets this season remains unlikely with so much inexperience on their roster, but the hope is to use bitter defeats like Saturday's to forge a stronger team down the line.
Carolina didn't flinch after falling behind 4-0 almost halfway through
the second period, continuing to press the Blue Jackets until finally kicking the door down and winning 7-4.
“I think it's something we can learn from them,” said Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski. “No matter what the score was, they just kept playing their game. That's something we have to learn and something we have to do, whether we're up 4-0, down 4-0, in 3-2 hockey games … whatever it is. We just have to keep playing our game and playing the way we know how to play. And that's what they did tonight.”
Jackets coach Brad Larsen looked through an even bigger lens.
“Oh, it's a great lesson,” he said. “It shows you what it's going to take to build a team that you want to go a long way — not just to make playoffs, but to make a run. So, I think they felt it. Our (defensemen), our back end, I mean they were trying ... but you've got to try harder.”
Despite comically lopsided disadvantages in shots and shot attempts through the first two periods, the Jackets
led 4-2. Then the puck hit the ice to start the third and the whole thing blew up in spectacularly bad fashion.
Carolina finished with mind-boggling edges of 49-18 in shots and 90-33 in shot attempts.
It was complete domination outside of the 4-0 score that favored Columbus at 8:39 of the second period, after Alexandre Texier scored with a pass attempt that deflected off backsliding defenseman Ian Cole's stick. Carolina rattled off seven straight goals from that point.
The Hurricanes outshot the Jackets 16-2 in the final period and scored four times against Elvis Merzlikins, who entered in relief of injured starter Daniil Tarasov to begin the third.
Tarasov was outstanding, making 31 saves on 33 shots before leaving the game during the second intermission with a lower-body injury.
He left the game after posting a sizzling .939 save percentage in the game, including five saves against seven highdanger scoring chances for the Hurricanes.
He went 25 of 25 against Carolina's medium and low danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Merzlikins was ice cold in relief, but could hardly be faulted while facing near-constant waves of offense created by the Hurricanes.
“There's nothing (he) can really do,” Werenski said of Merzlikins. “It's slap shot after slap shot, tips and rebounds or whatever, so you feel for him. You feel for Tarasov, too. He was playing great. (This was) definitely not on our goalies by any means.”