COLUMBUS, Ohio — Elvis Merzlikins made 32 saves in his first start since coming off injured reserve, Cam Atkinson scored his team-leading seventh goal and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Thursday night.
Merzlikins, who hadn’t started since Jan. 31 because of an upper-body injury, picked up his sixth career shutout.
Merzlikins allowed two goals on nine shots on Monday night in relief of Joonas Korpisalo. But he was solid the whole way against Nashville, particularly in the the third period when Columbus was outshot 13-4.
Max Domi and Eric Robinson also scored for the Blue Jackets, who snapped a two-game skid but have recorded points in five of their last seven to stay close to the leaders in the Central Division.
Juuse Saros stopped 19 shots for the injury-plagued Predators, who have lost five of six and are among the lowest scoring teams in the NHL.
At the end of a largely disjointed first period, the Blue Jackets used some luck to get on the board. With 17 seconds left, Atkinson's shot on a rush caromed off the skate of Nashville defenceman Matt Benning as he was diving for the block, causing the puck to flutter up and over Saros.
Domi connected with a heavy one-timer from the right point to beat Saros at 4:56 of the second. Robinson added an empty-netter with 2:31 left in the game.
Predators: Their last two games were postponed because of severe winter weather in Dallas. ... C Ryan Johansen missed his sixth game with an upper-body injury. ... D Mattias Ekholm and F Mathieu Olivier have each missed three with injuries.
Blue Jackets: D Zach Werenski, still apparently bothered by a lower-body injury suffered on Feb. 4, has missed five of the last six games. ... G Matiss Kivlieniks was taken off injured reserve and assigned to Cleveland of the AHL. ... Atkinson has posted a goal streak of at least five games for the second time in his career. He tallied in seven straight games in 2018-19.
The teams wrap up the two-game series on Saturday in Columbus.
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Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press