The Columbus Blue Jackets were in need of a response to a bad loss Monday to the Bruins. The Toronto Maple Leafs were coming off one of their biggest wins of the season just a day earlier against the Hurricanes.
For Columbus, they would have to battle adversity without one of its top young players.
News from earlier in the day broke about Zach Werenski missing the game with some kind of body injury, forcing an array of lineup changes. Werenski is considered day-to-day. Markus Nutivaara suited up on the first defensive pairing with Seth Jones. Jack Johnson and David Savard were back together. Gabriel Carlsson was recalled from Cleveland, and Nick Foligno was back at center.
Old friends met as Curtis McElhinney stood in the crease for Toronto.
Here's what happened.
Josh Anderson, from the slot, missed a howitzer off McElhinney's right post for the Jackets' best chance of the first early. Though Toronto had seven shots on net through the midway mark to the Jackets' two, it was a bit of a feeling out process for both clubs. After taking most of their shots from the perimeter, they began working down low.
The Jackets thrive when they can work below the hash marks.
Lukas Sedlak got the Jackets on the board as the fourth line flexed its depth. Matt Calvert had the assist from the end board as he dished out to Sedlak in front. Coming in, the Jackets were 14-3-1 when scoring first.
Toronto drew the games' first penalty as Carlsson was called for holding, and Seth Jones at the end of the two minutes worked a 2-on-1 and scored his sixth of the season. The play started in the Leafs offensive zone when Jones picked off a pass and worked it down the ice, flicking the wrister for the 2-0 advantage.
Joonas Korpisalo was sharp on his end, setting aside all 12 Leafs shots.
Lukas Sedlak G
Matt Calvert A
Seth Jones G
William Nylander fed Jake Gardiner cross-ice after scooping a loose puck from Carlsson behind the next. Columbus has good looks on their first power play in the second period, featuring sustained zone pressure, and on the tape passes. They had five shots on their first advantage.
On the second Blue Jackets power play chance, it was more sustained pressure and Pierre-Luc Dubois bested McElhinney on the doorstep for his seventh, and the 3-1 lead. Cam Atkinson distributed the puck off the board and left it in the right spot for the young center. Columbus now has power-play markers in consecutive games, and three of the last four games. They generated nine shots on goal over both opportunities.
The period featured a lot of the little details. Little things can transition into big plays quickly and that is what John Tortorella preaches. Things have a way of looking easy when things go well, and that is how Wednesday went. Columbus held a sturdy shot advantage over the Maple Leafs, 19-10. Jackets forwards had 21 shots on goal through 40 minutes, as opposed to eight they had all of Monday.
Scoring: Jake Gardiner G
William Nylander A
Pierre-Luc Dubois PPG
Seth Jones A
Cam Atkinson A
Needing to finish, Columbus kept up the attack in the third period. Korpisalo made key saves and it was another fine outing for the young goalie.
Alexander Wennberg stayed hot and netted the fourth goal. The play came about off the faceoff in the other end and developed along the boards. Boone Jenner made a hit on Connor Carrick along the boards, knocking him out of the play, and Carrick breaking his stick.
Meanwhile, Jenner got the puck to center as Atkinson and Wennberg finished the threat. Wennberg has a four-game point streak, and five points total (2 G, 3 A) over that span.
Toronto got one more when Mitchell Marner scored late. A nice individual effort up ice.
Alexander Wennberg G
Cam Atkinson A
Boone Jenner A
Mitchell Marner G
Jake Gardiner A
Tyler Bozak A
Columbus Blue Jackets 4
Toronto Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday’s game was the type of response you probably figured. Columbus sustained offensive pressure, most notably on the power play, for easily one of, if not their best, power plays all season. Now let’s see them do it again Thursday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. You know they are going to be emotionally invested. Sergei Bobrovsky will be back, also looking for personal redemption after allowing seven goals in Boston.
Columbus improves to 5-1 in their last six versus Toronto. The clubs have two more meetings in Toronto. The Jackets have claimed eight of their last 10 on home ice.