Blue Jackets stumble against Canucks despite two more Marchenko goals

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Blue Jackets’ juice that powered them through charged games in Calgary and Edmonton was missing.

Their “puck luck” also vanished Friday at Rogers Arena, where the Vancouver Canucks earned a 5-2 victory with the help of a hidden horseshoe and lots of elbow grease.

“We just weren’t really in this one,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “We didn’t have as much energy at all, really, all game. A couple tough bounces off the end wall and then another one off us, but we didn’t have the gas (or) the execution. It was throughout our lineup. I don’t know if we were just low on energy or what, but we didn’t have it tonight.”

Rookie forward Kirill Marchenko scored both Columbus goals to increase his total to 13 in his first 26 NHL games, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the Canucks going 2 for 4 on power plays and getting two “bad bounce” goals in the first and third periods.

The first was credited to Vancouver’s Ilya Mikheyev, whose shot off the end boards behind the Blue Jackets’ net ricocheted back toward the net and bounced into it off goalie Joonas Korpisalo's skate with 45 seconds left in the opening period. That gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead and put Columbus in a bad spot.

“It’s obviously pretty tough,” center Cole Sillinger said. “Off of our shin pad, off the end wall and maybe off a skate too, but even up until that point, we weren’t playing our best and they were kind of giving it to us in all ends of the (offensive) zone.”

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There was a two-sided reason behind that kind of start.

The first was related to the Blue Jackets (15-31-1), who played their fourth game in seven days and were at risk for an emotional letdown after starting a four-game trip against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers going 1-0-1 in two intense matchups. The second reason stemmed from new Canucks coach Rick Tocchet, who called his team’s performance “soft” Wednesday after a 6-1 loss at the Seattle Kraken.

They were much harder to face in this game, which contributed to an offensive output that included a second bounce that went Vancouver’s way in the third. Former Ohio State forward Dakota Joshua made it 4-1 with a goal credited to him after his pass to the net deflected off Blue Jackets defenseman Adam Boqvist and past Korpisalo (29 saves).

Elias Pettersson capped a power play about four minutes later to make it 5-1 with his second goal of the game, securing the win.

“You work for your bounces and they were working,” Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner said. “We didn’t create enough because we just had to ‘up’ it a little bit. We weren’t at the same level as them in battles and stuff. That’s why we weren’t getting the chances.”

Columbus concludes its trip Saturday against the Kraken (28-15-5) at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, facing off in the back-to-back finale against former Blue Jackets forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alexander Wennberg. The Kraken should be just as motivated as the Canucks after losing 5-2 Friday to the Flames.

Kirill Marchenko ups ‘Cy Young’ bid for Columbus Blue Jackets

All he does is score goals.

Literally, that’s all Marchenko’s done in 26 games since making his NHL debut with the Blue Jackets on Dec. 6 in Pittsburgh. His scoring line in his rookie season is 13 points on 13 goals with not a single assist. He’s also scored three goals in the past two games, but these two weren’t as satisfying as a tying goal in the third period Wednesday to force OT in a win over the Oilers.

“It’s important for us to just win,” Marchenko said. “When you win, you might feel better, because all (the) guys smile and it’s better.”

Marchenko's first goal tied it 1-1 against the Canucks at 2:08 of the first period on the same power play that started with Vancouver taking a 1-0 lead on a quick shorthanded goal. His second was a stat-stuffer late in the third, but it still counts in the 'goal' column. He has also recorded his first NHL hat trick Jan. 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I have more confidence, but we talk about goals ... I want to play better (overall)," he said. "If I score like today and don't play with the puck more, it's my bad. I just (didn't) touch the puck. Only two times and it's two goals, you know? I want to play better in just my (overall) game."

Marchenko’s passing acumen isn’t exactly poor, but starting an NHL career with a 13-0-13 stat line is quite an anomaly. Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson quipped Wednesday that Marchenko was a “Cy Young candidate,” after scoring his 11th goal of the season in Edmonton — a baseball analogy for the award handed out to the best pitchers in that sport.

All the Russian rookie did Friday was strengthen those numbers.

Marchenko, the Blue Jackets' second-round pick in 2018, might also start drawing more attention in the race for the Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s top rookie. Seattle’s Matty Beniers is leading a talented pack with 17-19-36 in 47 games, but Marchenko could things interesting in the Blue Jackets’ next 33 games.

After tearing through the American Hockey League with the Cleveland Monsters to start the year, he’s scoring goals at a scorching 0.50 per game average. He’d finish with 30 goals in 59 games scoring at that rate to close out his rookie campaign, which would be eye-opening to say the least.

“He can put the puck in the back of the net,” said Jenner, who’s tied for the team lead in goals with Patrik Laine at 14 each. “He scores in different ways and if he gets it in (a scoring) area, he’s dangerous. He’s got a real knack for it and he’s getting some big goals for us. It’s good for us and great for him.”

Dec 19, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Kent Johnson (91) waits for a face-off against Dallas Stars during the third period of their NHL game at Nationwide Arena.
Dec 19, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Kent Johnson (91) waits for a face-off against Dallas Stars during the third period of their NHL game at Nationwide Arena.

Blue Jackets rookie Kent Johnson savors trip home to Vancouver

Kent Johnson’s first NHL game at Rogers Arena against the Canucks, whom he grew up cheering for from the 300 level, was uneventful.

He played 14:59 on 17 shifts and didn’t record a single stat on the final scoresheet — no goals, assists, points, shots, attempts, hits, blocked shots or faceoffs. Don’t take that to mean it wasn’t a special night for him, his parents and other family and friends who attended.

“When I was younger, my dad had season tickets with his real estate company, so we got to go to some games here,” said Johnson, who was selected fifth overall by the Blue Jackets in 2021. “They were upper bowl seats, but not bad. It’s just been fun thinking about, maybe, a couple years ago … when I was a little bit older and I actually thought to myself, ‘Geeze, I could possibly do this.’”

One of those games as a Canucks fan ended with a low-scoring shootout that Johnson remembers for that reason.

“Nobody could score,” he said. “I remember being like, ‘Put me out there and I think I’m scoring,’ so moments like that are funny now. It’s definitely exciting going in there though.”


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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets stumble against Vancouver Canucks