Merzlikins stops 36 shots, Blue Jackets blank Jets 3-0

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)Elvis Merzlikins made 36 saves for his seventh career shutout and the Columbus Blue Jackets blanked Winnipeg 3-0 on Wednesday night to hand the Jets their fourth consecutive defeat.

Gregory Hofmann, Zach Werenski and Andrew Peeke scored for Columbus, which won for the fourth time in five games.

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 29 shots in his first loss in five starts against the Blue Jackets.

”The last two games I didn’t play that well,” Merzlikins said. ”Last day off I was just thinking more about how to come back to the performance at the start of the season. I tried to be dialed in from the first minute and focus on the game.”

Hofmann put Columbus on the board at 15:09 of the first period, taking a left-side pass from Max Domi on the rush and slipping it past Hellebuyck for his second goal of the season.

Domi has four points in his last three games since returning from COVID-19 protocol.

Werenski made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 6:49 of the second on a shot from the right circle. It was his third goal with the man advantage and fifth of the season, extending his point streak to six games.

”That goal was huge,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. ”It gave us a little breathing room. To get a two-goal lead is much different than one shot and they are tied. They came through huge at the right time.”

Jakub Voracek’s primary assist was his 13th this season, most in the NHL. He has 15 assists overall, and he extended his home point streak to five games.

Peeke added an empty-netter at 16:27, assisted by Vladislav Gavrikov and Alexandre Texier, who also extended his home point streak to five games.

Winnipeg is winless in three games against Eastern Conference foes this season.

”I wasn’t overly concerned about our offensive game, believe it or not,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. ”But we’re going to have to find different ways to get pucks to the net.”

WELCOME BACK

Pierre-Luc Dubois returned to Nationwide Arena for the first time since his trade to Winnipeg in January, which resulted in Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine coming south to Columbus. Winnipeg forward Riley Nash spent 2 1/2 seasons with the Blue Jackets before being traded to Toronto at the deadline last season, adding another welcome back to the night.

HONORING KIVI

Dubois wore No. 18 in Columbus but this season switched to No. 80 to honor Matiss Kivlenieks, the Blue Jackets goalie who died in a fireworks accident this summer. Dubois said he plans to wear No. 80 for the remainder of his career.

ZACH ATTACK

Werenski, who on Saturday joined Seth Jones as the only blueliners in Columbus history with 200 career points, leads Blue Jackets defensemen in goals, assists and points with 5-9-14 in 17 games.

INJURY UPDATE

Winnipeg center Paul Stastny missed his eighth straight game with a foot injury.

HOME SWEET HOME

It was the first time Winnipeg and Columbus played since Jan. 22, 2020, when Columbus won 4-3. The home team has won five of the last six meetings.

UP NEXT

Jets: At the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

Blue Jackets: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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