On the heels of his first-career playoff start, and becoming just the 14th goaltender to pitch a shutout in a first-career playoff start, Joonas Korpisalo just wanted to give his team a chance at a 2-0 series advantage before things shift — figuratively — to Columbus skating as the home team.
He did his part with 36 saves. Unfortunately, the rest of the team showed little to match the intensity, and desperation, of their opponents.
In Tuesday’s matinee, the Maple Leafs defeated the Blue Jackets 3-0, with goals by Auston Matthews and John Tavares to lead the way. Frederik Andersen returned the shutout favor stopping all of 20 shots.
Diving into this one from the start, one of Toronto’s early-best chances saw Korpisalo in position to keep Toronto off the board, a theme throughout most of the series so far.
Dean Kukan left the first period after a hit by Kyle Clifford, which didn’t result in a penalty, but a tough blow for Columbus, a team no strangers to injuries all season. Kukan would return.
Looking at it closer, although high, it appears Clifford made shoulder-to-shoulder contact first, which threw Kukan's head back.— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) August 4, 2020
His skates don't leave the ice until after the contact, either. So, tough one for Kukan, but probably not an "illegal" hit. Could've been charging. https://t.co/PNw91CUfD3
Zach Werenski was shown on the bench after a TV timeout having his right hand taped up. He led ice-time for the game at 28:47.
As expected, and previously speculated on yesterday’s The Cannon Cast, the Leafs came out firing, with a 12-4 shots-on-goal advantage just over halfway though the opening period. Toronto held the 15-6 advantage after one, and neither team converted on power play opportunities. The Leafs squandered five opportunities with the man-advantage for the game, while Columbus was 0-for-4.
Face-offs were tilted the Blue Jackets way, as they won 14 of 20 draws in the first period. Something to hang your head on going into the second. They would outdraw the Leafs for the game 31-28.
While watching the second period of this game, the obvious take would be that the Blue Jackets’ lack-of-offense continued to do little to inspire confidence upon a futile first period. On the other hand, Korpisalo’s game continued to elevate, stifling the Maple Leafs every turn and turning away shot after shot.
Who was more frustrated?
Well probably Columbus, because you knew the lack of any kind of offensive pressure, or the amount of penalties, or the fact that eventually, Toronto’s shot-barrage would break the dam.
Matthews was the one to do that for the Leafs, burying Zach Hyman’s pass on a perfectly placed tip giving his Leafs the 1-0 lead.
Despite Columbus only mustering eight shots in the middle frame and being outshot 29-12 through 40 minutes, they were fortunate to only be down one goal.
Joonas Korpisalo went exactly 96 minutes to begin his postseason career without giving up a goal. 55 straight saves. #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) August 4, 2020
The third period was the opportunity for Columbus to right the ship quickly, but the captain, Nick Foligno, found himself in the penalty box for the second time in the game.
Though that resulted in another miss with the power play for Toronto, Werenski had a chance in the slot to tie, but never got the shot off. The puck ended up on Tavares’s stick, and the captain came down ice with a breakaway goal, basically equating to a mountainous 2-0 lead. He was also the shot-leader for the game with eight.
A last chance to get back into this one, John Tortorella pulled Korpisalo from the net with 2:50 left, also the fourth Blue Jackets power play of the game. Instead, Morgan Rielly buried the empty-netter to cement the victory.
There was a scary moment with just under two minutes left when Jake Muzzin went down awkwardly in the corner, hitting his head in the back of Oliver Bjorkstrand’s leg. Muzzin was stretchered off the ice, and hopefully he's okay.
Anderson’s shutout is his third-career playoff blanking, and Toronto’s first playoff shutout since 2004 when Ed Belfour did it against the Senators.
As Toronto evens the series at one apiece, it’s now a pivotal best-of-three with Game 3 starting Thursday night at 8 pm est.