Blue Jackets roll in opener; Larsen wins coaching debut

Published 1:49 am Friday, October 15, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Oliver Bjorkstrand had two goals and two assists, Max Domi added a goal and two assists and the Columbus Blue Jackets made Brad Larsen a winner in his coaching debut with an 8-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

Alexandre Texier, Boone Jenner, Jake Bean, Zach Werenski and Gus Nyquist also scored for Columbus. Vladislav Gavrikov, Jakub Voracek and Jack Roslevic had two assists apiece as 13 Columbus players earned points in the opener.

Elvis Merzlikins stopped 36 shots in his first opening-night start.

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“I didn’t think we played that well, but we found ways to score,” Larsen said. “That’s good. We have such a better game in us.

“Elvis was really good for us tonight. It was a strange 8-2 game. I’m happy to get the win. There are a lot of positives. But we have a lot of work to do.”

Anton Stralman and Clayton Keller scored for Arizona. Carter Hutton stopped 18 shots in his first game since joining Arizona from Buffalo. New coach Andre Tourigny lost his first game with the Coyotes.

“I don’t think the score reflects the game,” Tourigny said. “We broke down defensively. At some points, we got emotional, we got off our game. We did better things than the score showed.

“We have to be better defensively. We know how to fix it. We will fix it.”

The Blue Jackets wasted no time getting on the board as Domi, back from shoulder surgery a month earlier than expected, forced a turnover and fed Texier for a score 40 seconds into the first period.

Bjorkstrand made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 14:05 of the first. Jenner scored off another Domi steal 35 seconds into a four-on-four situation in the second period, giving Columbus a three-goal lead.

“It’s never a bad way to start,” Bjorkstrand said. “Obviously, you can’t get too comfortable. There are things we can do better. It was a weird night. I thought they had the puck a lot, but we finished off. We have to get ready for the next one.”

Arizona cut it to 3-1 just 28 seconds later when Stralman, a former Blue Jackets defenseman, beat Merzlikins between the pads.

Bjorkstrand’s second goal came as a surprise. He swatted at a backhanded pass from Jack Roslevic at 11:10 of the second and beat Hutton to make it 4-1.

Bean, making his Columbus debut, extended the lead to 5-1 with a one-timer at 14:16 of the second. Zach Werenski’s power-play goal at 4:33 of the third made it 6-1.

Cole Sillinger’s assist on Domi’s goal at 8:48 of the third, which made it 7-1, was his first NHL point.

Keller’s power-play goal at 16:46 cut the lead to 7-2.

Nyquist scored the game’s final goal at 18:36 of the third.

WELCOME TO THE NHL The game marked the head coaching debut of both Larsen and Tourigny. It marks the 12th time in NHL history, and first time since 2005, that two rookie head coaches faced off in the season opener.


The late Columbus goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, who died in July after being struck by a firework, was present in spirit for the home opener. Goalie Elvis Merzlikins wore his friend’s No. 80 in net, and Kivleniek’s family dropped the ceremonial puck as a banner featuring his number “80” was lifted to the Nationwide Arena rafters.


Phil Kessel’s consecutive games played streak hit 901, putting him fifth all-time. It’s the third-longest active streak in the NHL, behind Keith Yandle, 922; and Patrick Marleau, 910.


Columbus has the NHL’s youngest opening roster at an average of 25.71 years old.


Boone Jenner skated for the first time wearing the “C” for Columbus, the seventh captain in team history. He is in his ninth NHL season and served as an alternate captain from 2015-2021.


The Blue Jackets placed right winger Emil Bemstrom on injured reserve for a left oblique strain suffered in practice on Tuesday. He is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.


Coyotes: At Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Blue Jackets: Host Seattle Kraken on Saturday.

Arizona 0 1 1 = 2
Columbus 2 3 3 = 8

First Period–1, Columbus, Texier 1 (Gavrikov, Domi), 0:40. 2, Columbus, Bjorkstrand 1 (Werenski, Voracek), 14:05 (pp).

Second Period–3, Columbus, Jenner 1 (Domi), 0:35. 4, Arizona, Stralman 1 (Crouse, Larsson), 1:03. 5, Columbus, Bjorkstrand 2 (Roslovic, Gavrikov), 11:10. 6, Columbus, Bean 1 (Voracek, Laine), 14:16.

Third Period–7, Columbus, Werenski 1 (Bjorkstrand, Laine), 4:33 (pp). 8, Columbus, Domi 1 (Peeke, Sillinger), 8:48. 9, Arizona, Keller 1 (Gostisbehere, Kessel), 16:46 (pp). 10, Columbus, Nyquist 1 (Roslovic, Bjorkstrand), 18:36.

Shots on Goal–Arizona 11-13-14_38. Columbus 10-9-7_26.

Power-play opportunities–Arizona 1 of 4; Columbus 2 of 3.

Goalies–Arizona, Hutton 0-1-0 (26 shots-18 saves). Columbus, Merzlikins 1-0-0 (38-36).

A–17,813 (18,500). T–2:31.

Referees–Peter MacDougall, Kendrick Nicholson. Linesmen_Brad Kovachik, James Tobias.