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Blue Jackets Strike First, But Fall to Maple Leafs 4-2

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On Monday night, two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference squared off. Yet, the home team in blue stopped the Blue Jackets points-streak.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes were on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, and with good reason.

While Columbus came in with three-straight wins and a seven-game point streak, the Maple Leafs also came in winners of three-straight, and with wins in six of their last seven games. Both teams feature high-octane scoring, as the Leafs entered the night tied-for-third in scoring across the league (3.50), and Columbus fifth (3.40).

They also feature stingy goaltenders.

Sergei Bobrovsky came into the start with wins in his last four games (1.00 GAA, .967), allowing only a single goal in those starts. Frederik Andersen came into the night with five-straight wins (1.20, .966).

This early-season matchup had it all with both teams trying to set the pace in the Eastern Conference standings. And it was lockstep there too, where the Leafs entered the night second in the conference, and Columbus third.

With end-to-end action throughout the majority of the first period, it was the Jackets who found twine first, twice, as part of a two-goal first period. However, the Maple Leafs were able to overcome that deficit, and pull away late. 4-2, to end the Blue Jackets seven-game points-streak, while extending their own win streak to four games.

For the Blue Jackets, there were few surprises as to who got the scoring started.

Cam Atkinson, fresh off winning the National Hockey League’s First Star of the Week, stayed hot with his 13th goal in the first period, extending his goal-streak to a personal-best, five games.

Then Pierre-Luc Dubois upped his point-streak to five, a career-best, with his 10th goal. He now has goals in three of the last four games. On the play, it was Atkinson who was driving in front of the net looking for goal No. 2 when he lost the puck, and with Dubois trailing, was there to lift it through, inside the final minute of the period.

Things could have been dicey early with three Blue Jackets turnovers and two posts rattled by the Leafs inside the first six minutes of the game. First, by Tyler Ennis inside the three-minute mark and then Connor Brown down low. Despite Toronto’s speed up the ice, hit posts and all, they were only able to muster six first period shots on goal to Columbus’ 14.

Tyler Ennis was able to break through in the second, this time, the play originating behind Bobrovsky’s net, as Ennis threw a fierce wrap-around at the net.

Later, Columbus had a breakaway opportunity as Artemi Panarin poked the puck out of the Blue Jackets zone, and ahead to Josh Anderson, but was stopped by Andersen.

Former Islanders star, and last summer’s biggest free agent, John Tavares, energized the crowd with his 13th goal of the season, tying the game at two in the second. Kasperi Kapanen started the charge with an up the right wing feed to Mitchell Marner, who powered his way to the net with a deke on Scott Harrington, and had his backhand shot initially denied by Bobrovsky.

Marner was able to follow up on his own rebound out to Tavares who scored the follow-up goal to tie the score, 2-2, which was how the second period score would hold.

In the third period, the Leafs finally capitalized to take the lead for the first time. Following a Blue Jackets icing, Zach Hyman won the offensive zone face-off, and immediately went to the net where he camped down low in front of Bobrovsky, where he scored a tip-in goal, the shot coming from Morgan Rielly. Tavares also picked up an assist in the sequence. Hyman scored the empty-netter to cap things in his team’s favor.

The Blue Jackets entered undefeated when leading after the first period (6-0), and after the second period (6-0). Meanwhile, Toronto also came in undefeated when leading after 1 (8-0), and after two periods (10-0). The Blue Jackets fall to 5-2-1 when tied after two periods. This is the one and only meeting between the two teams in Toronto.

Neither team took a penalty in the game. It is the first game in Blue Jackets history in which there were no penalties. Auston Matthews missed the game with a shoulder injury he sustained in late October. Bobrovsky made 22 saves, while Andersen made 37 stops.

Cam Atkinson, as we mentioned, was the NHL’s First Star of the Week after recording five goals, three assists, last week, including the hat trick Saturday at the Hurricanes. It’s the third time he’s won the award, also taking it home in March 23-29, 2015 and Jan. 25-31, 2016.

Columbus will pick up with their home-and-home with the Maple Leafs on Friday night at Nationwide Arena. They will complete their weekend back-to-back with a visit to Pittsburgh on Saturday night to face the Penguins for the first time this season.