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Merzlikins Gets Fifth Shutout, Columbus Wins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Columbus Blue Jackets rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins is racking up some impressive stats since becoming the starter by attrition on New Year’s Eve.

Merzlikins, who took over after Joonas Korpisalo was injured, got a fifth shutout in his last eight games on Friday night in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. He’s got back-to-back shutouts and eight straight wins. He is 12-2-0 since becoming the starter. The five shutouts lead the NHL.

And it was probably his easiest win of the season, with Columbus out-shooting the hapless Red Wings 44-16.

“We didn’t give them much, but (Merzlikins) made some great saves for us,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said.

Zach Werenski’s second-period goal, his 17th of the season, broke a franchise season scoring record for defensemen for the Blue Jackets, who have won three straight and nine of 10.

The Blue Jackets dominated Detroit but were clinging to a 1-0 lead as the clock ticked down under 2 minutes and the Red Wings pulled goalie Jimmy Howard for a sixth skater. Columbus finally got to breath easier when Boone Jenner got an empty-netter with 1:25 left.

Howard faced a shooting gallery at times, finishing with 42 saves and slipping to 2-21-2 on the season. The 35-year-old has lost 18 straight and hasn’t won since October.

“They just throw pucks at the net,” Howard said. “They’re one of those teams that’s got big bodies up front. They like to work it down low and throw it to the middle and just crash. A lot of shots were in tight.”

Columbus has been on a roll the past two months. They are 9-0-1 in the last 10 and 19-2-5 since Dec. 9, earning 43 of their 69 points in that stretch. The win moved them back into third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the New York Islanders and two behind Pittsburgh.

“I think we played well, we didn’t give up really anything,” Werenski said. “We had a lot of chances, a lot of shots. It would be nice to score a couple more of those, but we’re saving those for tomorrow, I guess.”

Columbus is bound to have a tougher time of it on Saturday against Colorado in the second half of a back-to-back.

MAPLE LEAFS 5, DUCKS 4

TORONTO (AP) — John Tavares scored his second goal of the game at 4:53 of overtime, lifting the Toronto Maple Leafs to a win over the Anaheim Ducks.

Auston Matthews got his 40th goal of the season to tie Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead and had three assists, while Jason Spezza and Andreas Johnsson also scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner also had three assists and Tavares had one.

Jack Campbell made 26 saves in his first start for the Maple Leafs, two nights after being acquired from Los Angeles.

Adam Henrique had a goal and an assist, and Nicolas Deslauriers, Max Jones and Derek Grant also scored for Anaheim. Ryan Miller finished with 30 saves for the Ducks, who were playing for the third time in four nights.

Tavares scored his 22nd goal of the season at the lip of the crease with 6.2 seconds left on the clock in the extra period.

SABRES 3, RANGERS 2

NEW YORK (AP) — Jimmy Vesey had a goal and an assist against his former team, Carter Hutton stopped 37 shots, and the Buffalo Sabres held on to beat the New York Rangers.

Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart also scored to help Buffalo get just its second win in seven games.

Hutton had six saves in the first period, 10 in the second and 21 in the third when the Rangers tried to rally from a 3-0 deficit.

Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored for the Rangers, and Alexandar Georgiev finished with 25 saves.

WILD 3, STARS 2

DALLAS (AP) — Joel Eriksson Ek scored his second goal of the game with 26 seconds to play and the Minnesota Wild rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

Eriksson Ek skated from behind the net to the right goalpost and put a wraparound behind Dallas goalie Ben Bishop for the winning goal.

Ryan Donato also scored for the Wild, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 31 shots.

Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov scored for the Stars, who led 2-0 early in the second period. Bishop finished with 27 saves.

Eriksson Ek and Donato scored less than four minutes apart to tie the score with less than eight minutes remaining in the middle period.

Before Friday, Eriksson Ek had not scored a point in nine career games against Dallas. His first goal came on a play when he barely touched the puck before it went in off a Stars playerás stick.

Dallas remained third in the Central Division. Central rival Minnesota moved up to a sixth-place tie with Chicago, just two points behind Calgary for the second wild card in the Western Conference.

Dallas came out strong early. Mattias Janmark hit the right goalpost barely a minute into the game, and the Wild killed a hooking penalty to Luke Kunin at 2:23 of the first period, with Dubnyk stopping two shots.

The Stars also finished strong in the first, taking the last nine shots on goal, including Pavelski’s goal on the power play.

From low in the slot, he put in the rebound of a shot by Tyler Seguin with 4:32 left.

Dallas outshot Minnesota 16-12 in the first.

Each team killed a penalty early in the second, but 2 seconds after Eriksson Ek left the penalty box, Gurianov drilled a slap shot from the right faceoff dot past Dubnyk.

The Wild pulled within one at 8:25 of the second. Ryan Suter passed from behind the net and players from both teams touched the puck with Eriksson Ek credited with an unassisted goal.

At 12:09, Donato took a wrist shot from low in the right circle that squeezed into a small space between Bishop and the right post.

NOTES: Minnesota LW Zach Parise played in his 1,000th game. … Stars C Joe Pavelski has a four-game points streak with five points (four goals, one assist). He has three of his six power-play goals this season during that streak. … Dallas C Tyler Seguin has gone a career-high 15 games without a goal but picked up his eighth assist during that span on Pavelskiás goal. … Bishop earned his second assist of the season on Gurianovás goal. … It was the final game between the Central Division rivals this season, with Minnesota going 3-1-0 and Dallas 1-2-1.

UP NEXT

Wild: Begin a three-game homestand on Sunday against Colorado.

Stars: At St. Louis on Saturday night.

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