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Suffice it to say that Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski is enjoying his rookie season.
The 19-year-old Werenski continued his impressive start with a pair of assists as the Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to eight games with a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
“We’re pretty hot right now and it’s fun to be on a winning team.” said Werenski, who was selected eighth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.
At 14:22 of the first period, Werenski combined with Alexander Wennberg to set up Brandon Saad to give Columbus a 2-0 lead.
After Calgary narrowed the lead to 2-1, Werenski helped re-establish a two-goal cushion 1:14 into the second on a power play. His slap shot from the blue line was deflected by Sam Gagner with the puck then caroming off the leg of Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman.
“It seems like the puck is finding the back of the net,” said Werenski. “I just threw it to the net, hoping it got there, I couldn’t really see anything and next thing I know guys are celebrating.”
Werenski has 20 points on the season to move into a tie for fourth in rookie scoring. He has six more than the next closest defenceman.
The streaking Blue Jackets are 13-1-2 in their last 16 and own the NHL’s best winning percentage at .750.
“We’ve had a really good mindset where we’re just trying to approach every day as a new day and trying to get better,” said Gagner, who leads the team with 13 goals. “That mindset has been huge for us. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
While in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points back of Pittsburgh and one back of the New York Rangers, Columbus holds three and four games in hand, respectively.
For Chad Johnson, the Gagner goal was not unlike a couple of the seeing-eye goals that eluded him in Wednesday’s loss to Tampa Bay.
“Last couple games, it’s been frustrating because guys are trying to block them and they’re just getting piece of them or pucks are floating through three guys,” said Johnson.
Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad and Matt Calvert also scored for Columbus (19-5-4),
Sean Monahan had the lone goal for Calgary (16-15-2), which has lost two straight on the heels of a six-game winning streak.
“We need to work harder and it showed,” said Monahan. “We had some costly mistakes, starting with myself. I made some mistakes where I turned the puck over and they went down and scored their second goal. We have to clean up that area.”
Monahan extends his career-best point streak to nine games (five goals, six assists), which is now the NHL’s longest active streak after Sidney Crosby had his nine-game streak come to an end on Friday.
Calvert made it 4-1 at 7:31 when he intercepted Gaudreau’s pass at the blue-line and raced away on a breakaway, tucking his fifth goal through Chad Johnson’s pads.
It was redemption for Calvert, who took the penalty in the first period that put the Flames on a two-man advantage and led to Monahan’s goal at 16:45.
“Way too many times they walked through us in our slot and created a lot of good chances,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano.
In the Columbus net, Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves to run his winning streak to seven and improve to 18-5-2 on the season.