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NHL News: Blue Jackets strike early, then hold off Flames

Goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins combined to make 31 saves and backstop the host Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday and snap a three-game losing skid.

Patrik Laine, Eric Robinson and Sean Kuraly each scored for Columbus. Korpisalo, who started the game, made 12 saves in the first period but left due to a lower-body injury. Merzlikins stopped 19 of 20 shots he faced — including 15 third-period saves.

It even appeared the Blue Jackets would need to insert their emergency backup goalie when Merzlikins was shaken midway through the third period during a goalmouth collision, but he was able to finish the game.

Michael Stone replied for the Flames, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped in the opening clash of a three-game road swing. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 24 shots.

Coming off Wednesday’s embarrassing 9-4 home-ice beating at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, the Blue Jackets were looking for an early boost and received it with Laine’s tally 62 seconds into the clash. Laine converted a breakaway for his seventh goal of the season. It was the sixth time this season Markstrom surrendered a goal on the first shot he faced.

Markstrom made a couple of highlight-reel worthy saves against Laine in the opening frame but couldn’t deny Robinson’s breakaway — created when he intercepted a cross-ice pass by MacKenzie Weegar. Robinson stole the puck and zoomed away before lifting a shot just under the crossbar for his third goal of the season at 2:52 of the second period.

Stone, with plenty of traffic in front of the net, put the Flames on the board with a long point shot with 2:34 remaining in regulation. It was his third goal of the campaign.

However, Calgary’s comeback hopes were dashed by Kuraly’s empty-net goal with 23.2 seconds remaining, his seventh goal of the campaign.

Johnny Gaudreau, the long-time Flames standout who signed a lucrative seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus via free agency last summer, took two shots but was held off the scoresheet.

–Field Level Media

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