Was the outcome of this game ever in doubt? The Blue Jackets were wearing their reverse retro jerseys tonight for their 3-0 defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs so a loss was all but guaranteed tonight.
It appeared like most of the Jackets were still on vacation or suffering jet lag from their return trips. Toronto was in control for the vast majority of the game, and denied the Blue Jackets the opportunity to get anything going. It would have been much worse if not for Korpisalo making some amazing saves, including denying multiple Toronto breakaways. At least there were a lot of Toronto fans in the building to enjoy the game since the Jackets fans in attendance were forced to endure another stinker of a game.
The break was supposed to allow for a fresh start to clear the minds of the players to try and forget some of their miserable first half of the season. However, it was more of the same tonight for the Jackets, looking lost offensively for much of the game, while some defensive breakdowns sank them late in the game.
Here’s how it went down...
Both teams came into this one looking to shake off the rust from a lengthy break. The teams traded power play opportunities early on, committing back to back penalties. The Jackets generated basically nothing, and the Maple Leafs only took about thirty seconds to score on theirs. Mitch Marner carried the puck towards the net, drawing Vladislav Gavrikov in before flipping a backhand pass to John Tavares who just had to redirect the puck past Korpisalo. The many Leafs fans in attendance jumped to their feet in celebration.
1-0 TML (Tavares from Marner and Bunting)
Toronto nearly doubled their lead almost halfway through the period. Johnny Gaudreau had a pass broken up at the blue line that sent William Nylander in on Korpisalo all alone. Korpi came up huge to deny Nylander with a sprawling save. It appeared that Nylander beat Korpi five-hole, but as his back foot came across crease, it got just enough of the puck to keep it out of the net.
Korpi denies Nylander on the breakaway! ⛔#CBJ pic.twitter.com/8QbcLg2LQi— Bally Sports Columbus (@BallySportsCBUS) February 11, 2023
Korpisalo was the Jackets best player by far in the opening period, saving at least two goals. The Jackets scrambly defense was going to owe Korpi a dinner after this one as they had trouble keeping up with the skill and tenacity of Toronto.
In the dying minutes of the period, Kent Johnson was stood up at the blue line from a stout hit from Rasmus Sandin. Cole Sillinger felt he had to make Sandin answer, chasing him around and challenging him to fight. The refs saw fit to call a fairly weak slashing call on Sillinger to put Toronto on the man-advantage with under two minutes in the frame.
The Jackets got out of the period only down a goal, but were lucky. They were largely outplayed by Toronto and were never really a threat to score, being outshot 13-6 in the process.
The Blue Jackets came into the second period needing to kill off the remaining 37 seconds of the Sillinger penalty. Eric Robinson and Sean Kuraly did just that nearly creating a scoring chance in the process.
Toronto was just doing a great job of denying the Blue Jackets any offensive rhythm. It’s not hard to do, but credit to them for making everything difficult for the Jackets. Korpisalo was still keeping his team in the game as the Jackets were outshot 10-2 before the first television intermission.
Toronto headed back on the power play eight-and-a-half minutes into the period when Vladislav Gavrikov was called for an interference penalty. Once more, Korpisalo was up to the task, turning aside all three shots on the penalty kill.
The Jackets were given their best chance of the night to even things up when Liam took a high stick and was leaking from the nose, putting the Jackets on the power play for a full four minutes. Even though it was still just a one goal game, it felt like a “now or never” moment for the Blue Jackets.
Sadly (and unsurprisingly) the Leafs generated the best chance during the four minutes. The Blue Jackets offensive attack was once again feckless and posed little danger, barely testing Samsonov. Patrik Laine probably committed three turnovers on the power play with careless, sloppy passes. Looked like Laine not only took today’s practice off, but also didn’t feel much like playing the game either.
As time expired in the power play, Korpisalo was called on again, denying William Nylander on yet another breakaway. Scouts for the eight teams in attendance tonight were hopefully taking note.
him. pic.twitter.com/zkWFjy08os— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 11, 2023
The Jackets did get a bit of momentum as time wound down in the period, but that doesn’t say too much considering they hadn’t had any all night. The period was a little more evenly played, but they were still fortunate to still only be down a goal.
To their credit, it did appear the Blue Jackets came out for the third period with some urgency, controlling the pace of play for the opening minutes. For the first time all night it actually felt like they were able to spend some time in the Leafs zone. Never did it really look like they were going to put a puck into the net, but at least they weren’t chasing the puck that much. Yes, the bar is that low.
Perhaps Toronto was just resting their legs to mount their final push to put this one to bed, because after that initial push by the Jackets, the Leafs turned it back on.
They scored a pair of quick goals to fully deflate the Jackets. Pierre Engvall and John Tavares scored in rapid succession on a couple of nice passing plays that had the Jackets puck watching.
2-0 TML (Engvall from Rielly and Kampf)
3-0 TML (Tavares from Marner)
Late in the game, Leafs’ rookie, Alex Steeves, appeared to make contact with Korpisalo behind the net, drawing the ire of the Jackets. Boone Jenner in particular was hot as he chased Steeves around the offensive zone, giving him a few good cross-checks and slashes. He was penalized for slashing and decided to really get his money’s worth with a few words for the officials, earning him an early trip to the showers with a misconduct tacked onto his slashing penalty.
Toronto decided they had done enough in this one and were content to let the clock run out and leave Columbus with an easy two points. Ilya Samsonov earned his third shutout of the year in easy fashion.
Final 3-0 TML
The Jackets are right back at it tomorrow night against the Leafs in Toronto to wrap up the home and home series.