Sports

Merzlikins: Provoked by fan over teammate death

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins claimed that a Dallas Stars fan taunted him by mentioning his late teammate, Matiss Kivlenieks, before their game on Monday night.

Merzlikins made 31 saves in the Blue Jackets’ 4-1 home win over Dallas, losing his shutout with less than three minutes left in the game on a Tyler Seguin goal.

“I strongly believe I was expecting a shutout, because I believe in karma. There are some stupid people in this world. It was really bad, what happened when I was walking out. There was a fan from Dallas who provoked me about Matiss [Kivlenieks],” Merzlikins said after the game.

Kivlenieks died from chest trauma after being hit with an errant firework at a July 4 backyard party at the Michigan home of Blue Jackets goaltending coach Manny Legace. He was 24, and like Merzlikins was a native of Latvia.

The Blue Jackets honored Kivlenieks this season with a memorial banner that hangs above their rink.

The veteran goaltender said the fan’s taunt didn’t bother him. “No. Stupid people don’t come into my head. I leave them there. I didn’t get upset. I just realized how stupid people are,” he said. “I don’t care what he said.”

Merzlikins, who improved to 4-0-0 on the season with a .952 save percentage, said he believes Kivlenieks is with him this season.

“There are goals where I want to go, what I want to reach. Alone, I’m not going to reach them. I need help, from my teammates and from Matiss,” he said. “I believe he’s going to help me.”

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