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Strong finish gives Blue Jackets new life against Maple Leafs

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

Toronto Maple Leafs (3) at Columbus Blue Jackets (4) - Overtime

After a lackluster showing on Tuesday, the Columbus Blue Jackets needed to bring a fury of fire against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Head Coach John Tortorella thought the best way to get the fire going was to start the game with the third line of Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, and Liam Foudy. Starting with grit, speed, and a strong veteran presence paired with youth seemed like a smart idea. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for the Jackets. The whole first period was full of disconnect and unfortunate plays.

With 5:45 left in the first period, Boone Jenner banged a puck off the crossbar. Despite not knowing whether the puck went in or not, he rushed the net to scoop up the rebound and almost scored. Andersen was able to slow the trajectory of the puck beneath his pads to prevent it from encroaching on the goal line. On this play, Jenner did something which the whole team failed to do on Tuesday night. Not only did he rebound his own shot, Jenner played until the whistle was blown. Had he not done either of those things, the Leafs likely would have picked up the rebound and tried to make a break down the ice towards Korpisalo.

The first goal of the night came due to an unfortunate bounce off of Seth Jones’ leg. To pour a little salt on the wound, the Jackets were on the power play and the goal was not scored by them.

From the right point, Cody Ceci wound up and launched a rocket towards the net. Jones skated in front of the shot blocking it with his leg. The puck ricocheted at the right angle into the net giving the Leafs the 1-0 lead with 1:08 left in the first period. On the play leading up to Toronto’s first goal, Zach Werenski and Jones set up a nice play for Cam Atkinson to convert into a goal. Andersen was able to get his skate on the puck. With no Jackets around to pick up the rebound, the Maple Leafs were able to clear the puck and regain control of momentum. We can only imagine what the result would have been if the Jackets kept control of the puck on the power play.

The disconnect between the Jackets continued into the second period. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t create an offensive spark which led to a minor breakdown in defense. This minor breakdown allowed Mitch Marner to quickly snipe a shot off the post 4:27 into the second. Korpisalo probably spent the next few seconds praising the post for giving him a little extra help.

Due to a tripping penalty by Riley Nash, the Jackets headed to the penalty kill 6:58 into the second period. Almost immediately, Marner launched a shot towards Korpisalo which Jones was able to quickly block. Auston Matthews scooped up the puck before sending it back to Marner. From the point, Marner passed the puck down the slot to William Nylander who slammed it home giving the Leafs the 2-0 lead.

Almost nine minutes into the second, the Leafs extended their lead over the Jackets to 3-0. Kasperi Kapanen smoothly skated off course before lofting the puck to a spot where Nick Robertson could launch it into the net. This was a great play by Kapanen. It looked as though Ryan Murray thought Kapanen was going to head straight towards the net or around the net. So, he tried to cut the lane off. Instead, Kapanen had plans of his own and turned around creating a slow down moment for the Jackets’ defense. It was everything the Leafs needed at that moment.

After the Jackets went down 3-0, Tortorella made the executive decision to swap Korpisalo for Elvis Merzlikins.

There were some bright spots for the Jackets during the last half of the second period. The brightest of them all came when Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the Jackets first goal of the night with 8:21 left in the second. Gus Nyquist set up shop in front of the crease causing Andersen to lose sight of Dubois. When Werenski spotted Dubois across the ice, it was a no brainer to fire the puck his way. Dubois was then able to score on Andersen who was out of sorts due to being screened.

Dubois’ goal seemed to light a fire within the souls of the Jackets. They began to skate with pep and every move they made had meaning. However, this new found energy was not quite enough to make a deep impact on the rest of the second period.

The Jackets began the third period with a successful penalty kill but then followed it up with an interesting power play. They spent the man-advantage hanging back and employing cross ice passes which did not meet the intended target once. Every pass was out of reach from the intended player.

And then the magic happened. The team started to click like two people on a first date realizing they just met their soulmate.

Jones redeemed himself with a sniper of a goal 7:27 into the third. Foligno stuck his big body in the paint causing Andersen to not be able to react to Jones’ shot in a timely manner. From that moment on, Foligno was the biggest thorn in Andersen’s side. There was rarely a moment when Foligno wasn’t screening Andersen or sitting at the top of the paint.

With 8:21 left in the second period, things got spicy when Dubois forced a turnover along the boards leading to his second goal of the night.

The Jackets were flying high and playing an aggressive yet clean game.

With 3:06 left in regulation, Merzlikins made an incredible stop on a wicked point blank shot. Knowing the other side of the net was going to be wide open, David Savard slid into the open space preventing any possible rebound from sneaking into the net.

As if this game wasn’t adventurous enough, the Jackets and Leafs decided to give everyone massive heart palpitations by pushing play to overtime.

The Jackets came alive during overtime. Foligno spent the bulk of it dumping Leafs on the ice and setting up shop at the top of the crease. At one point, Atkinson decided to play as an extension of Merzlikins allowing the defense to work along the boards behind the net.

With 9:16 left in overtime, Foligno made one of the biggest saves of the night. Matthews thought he was going to be able to power his way into the crease and fire off a shot towards Merzlikins. However, Foligno threw his body across the ice and poked the puck off of Matthews’ stick. Even better? Foligno did it without tripping Matthews.

When Foligno wasn’t around, Markus Nutivaara was the biggest thorn in Matthews’ side. He would not let the golden boy get near the net or a scoring lane.

With 1:06 left in overtime, Tavares underestimated the talent and hunger of Alexandre Texier. When Tavares went to shoot the puck, Texier decided there was no time like the present to steal the puck. Once Texier hit mid-ice, he passed the puck off to Dubois who rushed Andersen before backhanding it into the net for the hattrick and the game winning goal.

This game just proves that the way you start the game isn’t nearly as important as the way you finish the game.