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Core four combine for nine points, Maple Leafs beat Blue Jackets 4-1

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Photo credit:Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
It wasn’t quite the start the Toronto Maple Leafs hoped for when they opened up their mini two-game road trip in Buffalo Thursday night. But after an embarrassing loss to the Sabres, the Maple Leafs turned the page and closed their road trip in Columbus last night against the Blue Jackets in hopes of rebounding and getting back in the win column.

First period:

Although the Blue Jackets didn’t score at the beginning of the first period, they certainly generated some chances that tested Martin Jones early on. After coming off the type of loss Toronto did on Thursday, they needed to come out with a lot of jump against an inferior team like Columbus. However, that wasn’t the case, and Jones had to be alert in the early going.
Jones did a fine job weathering the storm until Toronto managed some shots, but Daniil Tarasov made a couple of unbelievable stops on Matthews and Marner in tight to keep the game tied at zero. It wasn’t until a couple of shifts later for the first line that they found a way to beat the Columbus netminder.
Roughly eight minutes into the game, the new-but-old look top line, consisting of Marner playing to the right on Matthews instead of Nylander, gained the offensive zone and went to work. Marner took the puck for a skate behind the Blue Jackets net, circled to the front, and found a wide-open Matthews waiting for the puck. He one-timed his 27th of the season past Tarasov to give Toronto the 1-0 lead.
With the Maple Leafs on the board first, they continued to generate chances, but so did the Blue Jackets. It was quite a back-and-forth period for both teams, with a combined 28 shots (14-14). However, the first period ended a little early because of an injury that Blue Jackets forward Sean Kuraly sustained late in the frame. It’s unknown how exactly he got hurt, but he was hit by Jake McCabe and Auston Matthews behind the net and got hit by the puck seconds later. He made his way to the Columbus tunnel before officials called for paramedics, and he ended up being taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution. On this note, it’s been reported that he’s doing fine despite the scare.
Toronto entered the first intermission up 1-0, and the remaining 18 seconds of the first period were added to the start of the second period.

Second period:

After playing the remaining 18 seconds of the first period, it took Columbus just 22 seconds into the second period to tie the game at one. An innocent dump in the Blue Jackets zone turned into a scoring chance in transition for Columbus. Adam Fantilli fed Johnny Gaudreau, who sprung Justin Danforth on a breakaway after Jake McCabe got caught pinching, and he sniped his eighth of the season past Jones.
With the game tied at one, the referee called David Kampf for a penalty, but fortunately for Toronto, he also called Fantilli for embellishment, and the two teams headed for some 4-on-4 hockey. That call benefited Toronto, as John Tavares scored his tenth of the season to retake the lead. He pulled off a nifty spin move off a couple of Blue Jackets defenders before roofing the puck over Tarasov.
With an even-strength and 4-on-4 goal, it was a matter of time until Toronto scored on the power play. Roughly six and a half minutes into the second period, Fantilli was called for his second penalty, holding this time, and it sent Toronto to their first man advantage.
It almost took the entire power play, but the Maple Leafs executed with Fantili in the box, as Matthews wired home his 28th of the season and second of the night. Nylander and Marner picked up the assists on the goal, giving them two each on the night up to this point in the hockey game.
Although there were three goals in the second period, there were fewer combined shots. After the first period, Toronto and Columbus combined for 28 shots (14-14). In the second period, both clubs combined for just ten (5-5). That’s hockey sometimes. Toronto headed into the second intermission up 3-1.

Third period:

Up 3-1 entering the third period, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in unfamiliar territory, given the way three of their last four games had played out heading into last night. Last Thursday against the Blue Jackets, Toronto trailed 5-0 entering the third period. This past Tuesday, they trailed 2-1 against the Rangers entering the third, and of course, against the Sabres, they entered the third period down 6-3.
Last night was different, and they did a fantastic job at shutting the game down, not allowing Columbus to get back in it. They limited the Blue Jackets to nine shots in the final 20 minutes of regulation despite them getting two power plays roughly three minutes apart.
Lucky for Toronto, their penalty kill did a great job at killing the two power plays off in the third, along with the two called earlier in the game. Although the Blue Jackets didn’t score on the power play, Toronto scored on the penalty kill, as William Nylander snapped home his 16th of the season past Tarasov, giving him and Matthews three points on the night.
The Maple Leafs were now up 4-1, and for the remaining eight minutes, they cruised to victory. It didn’t feel like Columbus threatened at any point toward the end of the game, and after allowing 14 goals against the Rangers and Sabres before last night’s contest, Toronto limited Columbus to just one goal on 28 shots. Whether they played a playoff team or not, last night’s win was a much-needed bounce-back game for the team heading into the Christmas break.

Who stood out:

Well, if you read the title of this article, you know that the core four had a big game. Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares combined for nine points (four goals and five assists).
Matthews scored two more goals last night, extending his unofficial goal streak to seven games (12 goals) and 14 goals in his last nine games. Those are video game numbers. The 26-year-old is now up to 28 goals in 30 games this season, putting him on pace for 76.
Nylander also had a big night last night, scoring a short-handed goal and picking up two assists for his fourth three-point night of the season. Last night’s performance now gives the pending UFA 45 points on the season, good enough for fourth in the NHL, only behind JT Miller (46), Nathan MacKinnon (53), and Nikita Kucherov (57).
Marner picked up two assists, which snapped his mini two-game pointless drought after a four-game point streak (four goals and five assists). Tavares also scored, hitting the double-digit goal mark on the year and the 30-point mark.
Last but certainly not least, Martin Jones impressed yet again. Although he came in relief cold against the Sabres Thursday night and allowed four goals on 15 shots, the 33-year-old stopped 27 of 28 shots Columbus threw his way last night to improve his record to 4-1-0 with the Maple Leafs.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Wednesday night when they return home to host the Ottawa Senators. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)

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