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Stanley Cup Qualifiers Game One Recap: Blue Jackets defense stifles Maple Leafs, Jackets take 1-0 series lead

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Here’s what happened.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

Finally, after all of the delays, the pause, debates, and phases: Columbus Blue Jackets hockey returned to the ice Sunday night in a meaningful game. They faced off in game one against the Toronto Maple Leafs in their best of five play-in series.

The big debate going into the game was settled around lunchtime Sunday: head coach John Tortorella announced that Joonas Korpisalo would get the start in net in game one.

It was somewhat controversial, but not wholly unexpected. Korpisalo was the starter on opening night, and with both goaltenders healthy, Torts did not see it fit to change his netminder going into the playoffs after a long layoff.

For Toronto, there were no lineup surprises. In a best of five series, starting quick and winning game one would be critical - the Jackets could not be forced into a situation where they would have to win three of four games against the Leafs, especially in Toronto’s arena.

How did they fare? Let’s find out.

Hockey, finally, is back.

First Period

The game started with many fans who rely on streaming services unable to view the game in favor of Reds postgame. The most NHL garbage imaginable. A hometown team unable to watch the game in town. Way to go, NHL and Fox Sports Columbus. Well freaking done.

Joonas Korpisalo made a save early, getting a feel for the puck and stopping a Nicholas Robertson shot with the right pad.

Anyway, the Jackets started well. Through the first eight minutes, both teams had chances with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones looking engaged.

The PLD line looked solid early, including getting two excellent chances by the big centerman.

Finally, with 8 minutes to go in the first period, your recapper got access to the game via FaceTime. Just spectacular work by Fox Sports Ohio. Idiots.

The Blue Jackets’ first line continued to dominate the play of the game, forcing saves out of Frederik Andersen. Like last season, the Jackets’ relentless forecheck was forcing the Leafs into uncomfortable spots. After a strong shift by the Jackets, Korpisalo mad a strong save on Auston Matthews in close.

With 2:39 to go in the first period, YouTube TV finally got the game. Thanks.

Zach Werenski hit the post with 2:30 remaining, he had Andersen beat.

With 34 seconds to go, the Jackets earned the first power play of the game. Despite chances by Werenski, Seth Jones, and Oliver Bjorkstrand, the teams went to intermission tied at zero.

From what Pale Dragon said I missed: Great D by CBJ. Korpi fine. Not enough sustained offense; not good shots and can’t get rebounds.

Sounds like a typical Jackets period.

Second Period

Columbus opened the period on the power play but were unable to score, generating just one shot as Cody Ceci came back on the ice.

The Jackets continued to defend well against the Leafs, generally forcing chances to the outside and limiting second chance opportunities. After a turnover from Oliver Bjorkstrand as the puck rolled off his stick, Korpisalo was able to stone William Nylander in the slot and the defense cleared the puck.

The Jackets went to the box for the first time with 14:06 remaining in the second as Cam Atkinson went off for tripping. Not ideal for Columbus as Cam is one of the premier penalty killers for the team. Toronto sent out their dangerous power play unit and, despite Matthews hitting the post, Korpisalo and some clean defense was able to keep the Leafs off the score sheet. Solid kill for the Jackets in their first big test of the series.

With 9:58 to go, Robinson got loose on a breakaway, but the puck bounced over his stick and he didn’t get a clean look on Andersen, but was able to force a cover up. The ice is very clearly showing the effects of five games in two days.

With six minutes to go, the Jackets had an extended shift in the Leafs zone, with shots by Bemstrom and Murray, but Andersen was equal to the task.

With 5:15 to go, Mitch Marner let a shot go and John Tavares looked to tip it home with Korpisalo down, but the Jackets were able to avert the danger. With 4:23 to, Andersen made a save and a scrum between Morgan Reilly and Oliver Bjorkstrand ensued that ended with Bjorkstrand in a headlock in the blue paint.

With 3:43 remaining, Korpisalo made his best save of the night. Auston Matthews was left alone in the slot, but his one timer was robbed by the glove of Joonas Korpisalo. Outstanding save.

Minutes later, Columbus was unable to capitalize in front of Andersen’s crease.

The period ended with Columbus outshooting Toronto 22-19, but the teams tied 0-0.

Third Period

Cam Atkinson finally noticed the breakthrough early in the third period. With a shot from the right hand side with just over a minute gone, Cam Atkinson beat Andersen and opened the scoring.

Columbus goal (1-0): Atkinson from Jones and Savard, 1:05

With 15:36 remaining, Ceci went to the box for tipping Atkinson, giving the Jackets their second power play of the game. Despite several chances, the Jackets were unable to find the back of the net. Columbus, at the first tv timeout with a 28-20 shots advantage, was beginning to take control of this game.

As the teams crossed the ten minute mark, Toronto began pushing hard for the equalizer. Auston Matthews began taking over in the offensive zone, shooting and looking for the net from all angles but the defense was equal to the task. The Jackets spent several minutes defending continuously, but blocked shots by multiple Jackets ensured Korpisalo never saw a high danger chance cleanly. Finally, with less than five minutes to play, Riley Nash sent a backhander high in front of Andersen, the first quality chance in some time.

WENNBERG SHOT. With 4:05 to go, Wennberg saw a shot saved by Andersen to bring us to a timeout.

Alex Texier saw his shot saved with 3:00 to go on a half-breakaway. The Jackets were able to frustrate the Leafs until Andersen was pulled with 1:20 to, bringing six skaters on. Toronto took a timeout with 1:04 to go to gameplan for the end.

WENNBERG FINISHES IT

With seconds to go, Alex Wennberg took a feed from Foligno and buried it. Ball game.

Columbus goal (2-0): Wennberg from Foligno, 19:41

Ball game.

Final

Columbus Blue Jackets 2 Toronto Maple Leafs 0

Final Thoughts

Shoutout to Fox Sports Ohio Columbus for utterly blowing this one sky high. Fans in Columbus, your writer among them, missed most of the first period because streaming services like Hulu, YouTube TV, and Fox Sports Go could not sort out technical issues and instead aired, in its entirety, a Reds postgame show. That’s inexcusable for a regular season game. For the first playoff game, a Stanley Cup qualifier? That’s an absolute clown show and someone should be reprimanded severely for it. That is simply not good enough, on any level. This needs to be sorted out before Tuesday, and many public apologies issues by the network. There is no reason to miss live sports when there haven’t been any since mid-March for a talking head Zoom meeting.

Joonas Korpisalo was outstanding in this one. I was on record that Elvis Merzlikins should start in game one, but Korpisalo took advantage of his chance and played well. His stop on Auston Matthews in the second period was all world and he played well throughout. Stick taps to the Finn.

Cam Atkinson now has the most goals for the Blue Jackets in franchise history. Stick taps to #13, one of many scoring records he will sit on top of before his career is done. Taps also to Jones, who with his 13th assist now leads all Jackets skaters in playoff assists.

The forecheck, the defensive system, and the goaltender. The players working in tandem, confident together, won this hockey game. No shots on net for Toronto in the final 6:12. Unreal.

Two wins till the knockout round. Let’s go.

Up Next

Game two between Toronto and Columbus is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Faceoff is set for 4:00 EST. Columbus leads the series 1-0.