COLUMBUS, Ohio — This wasn’t the return to the starting lineup Cory Schneider envisioned.
Elvis Merzlikins made a career-high 41 saves in his third shutout in his last four starts, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New Jersey Devils 5-0 on Saturday night for their fourth straight win.
Schneider started for the first time since Nov. 8 and was chased late in the second period. Schneider had 13 saves in 32:14 and Mackenzie Blackwood recorded 13 the rest of the way.
Cam Atkinson had two goals and an assist, helping the Blue Jackets improve to 14-2-4 in their last 20 games. Alexander Wennberg, Jakob Lilja and Nick Foligno also scored.
After some great saves by Merzlikins early — including alertly pouncing on a puck that nearly trickled in off a teammate’s skate — Atkinson got the Blue Jackets on the board when he ripped a shot from the high slot past Schneider’s glove late in the first. Merzlikins had to make 19 stops as the Devils swarmed in the opening period.
Atkinson got his second goal 21 seconds after Merzlikins helped kill off a power play in the second. Atkinson — in his second game back from an ankle injury — beat Schneider from just inside the left circle off a neat setup by Emil Bemstrom.
Lilja made it 3-0 when he put back a rebound from the doorstep with 8:02 left in the second, and 16 seconds later Foligno tapped a loose puck between the pads of Schneider. Columbus led 5-0 at the second intermission despite being outshot 36-21.