Dubois, Blue Jackets beat Canadiens 4-3, sweep season series
MONTREAL (AP) — Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice and added an assist to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 Sunday.
Vladislav Gavrikov and Gustav Nyquist also scored as Columbus swept the season series. The Blue Jackets have picked up at least a point in eight straight games.
“We didn’t play a full 60 minutes but we played well enough to get the win,” Dubois said. “At this point of the year, when it’s just a race to make the playoffs, it’s a huge win for us.”
Elvis Merzlikins made 27 saves and improved to 10-2-0 since replacing injured starter Joonas Korpisalo.
“Overall the team played well,” Merzlikins said. “We blocked shots, which was awesome. Even if it’s back-to-back after the break, we skated well and were fast.”
Tomas Tatar, Max Domi and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who remain eight points out of a playoff spot with 28 games left. Carey Price started for the second straight day and stopped 23 of 26 shots.
“You look around the league and teams come back from down two or three goals in a period,” Weber said. “The discussion in here was that it was definitely possible. If you don’t believe, it’s not going to happen. It didn’t happen tonight but there was belief in here between periods.
“We couldn’t get it done in the third.”
Both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back series. Columbus lost 2-1 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, and Price beat the Florida Panthers 4-0.
The Jackets have topped the Canadiens in four straight games, including all three meetings this season.
Building off their impressive shutout Saturday, the Canadiens were strong out of the gate and jumped ahead to a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Gavrikov scored the opener for Columbus at 12:45, a wrist shot from the faceoff dot for the defenseman’s fifth of the season. The play started when Dubois stole the puck from Ryan Poehling along the half wall.
Dubois beat Price on a long breakaway from his own blue line at 3:31. Weber’s aggressive pinch, and Tatar’s failure to track back, led to Montreal’s defensive breakdown.
Tatar made up for the mistake six minutes later when he got the Canadiens on the board. Tatar scored glove-side on Merzlikins, seconds after Nick Suzuki intercepted Dubois’s pass in his own zone.
Tatar has six straight 20-goal seasons. He also became the first Canadiens player since Brian Gionta to score 20 goals in his first two seasons with Montreal.
Dubois restored Columbus’ two-goal cushion with his 17th of the year on a backhand wraparound at 17:52 of the second after Price didn’t freeze the puck.
An uneventful third period was capped off by a flurry of goals in the final five minutes.
The Canadiens made it 3-2 when Domi fired a shot past Merzlikins at 15:52, through traffic, for his first goal since Dec. 31.
Nyquist scored the empty-netter for Columbus with 1:53 remaining before Weber pulled one back for Montreal 52 seconds later on a slap shot from the point.
“We have to find a way to make them crack next time and get a couple more,” Domi said. “They played tight and that’s the way you have to play with the lead. That’s a veteran team that knows how to play with the lead.”
NOTES: Tatar and Suzuki extended their point streaks to four games.
Blue Jackets: Host Florida on Tuesday night.
Canadiens: Host New Jersey on Tuesday night.