Maple Leafs score five unanswered in third period, fall 6-5 to Blue Jackets in overtime

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
After picking up three out of the possible four points on their mini two-game road trip against the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, the Toronto Maple Leafs returned home to open a three-game homestand last night against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets, and it was quite the game in its entirety.

First period:

The game started how you would have expected it to start for Toronto. The Maple Leafs, who returned home after a two-game road trip, took on the 28th-placed Blue Jackets with a record of 9-16-5 and allowed Columbus to generate the game’s first couple of scoring chances and ultimately the first goal of the game as Patrik Laine potted home his sixth of the season off a pass from Kent Johnson following a turnover from Max Domi from behind the goal line. Toronto responded with a good shift in Columbus’ zone, almost scoring themselves, but Merzlikins snagged a shot out of mid-air, ending that scoring chance. However, that little zone time generated by the Leafs didn’t do them wonders because Columbus would control most of the play afterward, including scoring another goal on Ilya Samsonov.
With roughly eight minutes left in the period, Toronto iced the puck. Matthews won the defensive zone faceoff, but Rielly scooped up the puck behind his net, rimmed it around the boards to nobody, and Andrew Peeke fired the puck toward the net, with Kent Johnson getting a piece of it for his second goal on the season.
After two consecutive goals from the Blue Jackets, the Maple Leafs did look a little better and spent more time in Columbus’ zone, but they didn’t generate anything that crazy that would have put the puck past Merzlikins. It was unquestionably an underwhelming period for Toronto after returning home to play a team that ranks in the bottom five in the league.
Toronto headed into the first intermission down 2-0, out-shot 11-10, and losing the high-danger chance battle at five-on-five, 8-3, according to Naturalstattrick.com.

Second period:

The second period began very well for Toronto compared to their first period. The Maple Leafs strung consecutive shifts in the offensive zone, generating multiple scoring chances on Elvis Merzlikins, but he had the answer. However, with that little spurt from Toronto, Columbus decided to crack this game wide open because they thought a 2-0 lead wasn’t good enough. In two and a half minutes, Justin Danforth and Yegor Chinakov each scored their seventh of the season to give the Blue Jackets a commanding 4-0 lead midway through the second period. Danforth scored off his backhand from behind the goal line, and Chinakov scored on a breakaway, going five-hole on Samsonov.
It’s no secret that Samsonov didn’t have it last night, and if you watched the game, you know the four goals he allowed are clear evidence of that, and it didn’t stop there. With under six minutes left in the frame, the Blue Jackets were on the power play after William Lagesson was whistled for holding, and Johnny Gaudreau went on to extend the lead to 5-0 with his fifth goal on the season.
The Maple Leafs entered the second intermission down 5-0, getting out-shot 26-25, and got booed off their home ice after an embarrassment of a period.

Third period:

With the Maple Leafs down 5-0 heading into the third period, there was little hope they could come back and win. Well, never say never. Maybe? William Nylander would end the shutout bid for Merzlikins just 38 seconds into the third period, as he was left all alone in front of the net and sniped his 14th of the season to cut the deficit to four.
With the Maple Leafs on the board, Scotiabank Arena woke up, and they stayed awake because Mitch Marner pulled off a nifty between-the-legs goal to get his team within three with roughly 16 minutes left in the game.
That Marner goal went straight to the legs of the Toronto players and gave more life to the crowd because the next shift, Toronto almost scored again, but somehow the puck stayed out of the net for Columbus.
They kept their foot on the gas, trying to get another goal quickly, but Elvis Merzlikins made save after save. Luckily, Ivan Provorov was whistled for boarding Mitch Marner, and the Maple Leafs headed to the power play with a chance to cut into the deficit even more. Although the top unit couldn’t do much, the second unit got the job done within seconds after being on the ice, as Jake McCabe wired one off the post and in for his first of the season to cut the deficit to two.
Okay, now they’re down two with five and a half minutes left. Is it possible? With just over a minute to go in regulation, with the goalie pulled, Auston Matthews scored his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season to tie this game up at five and force overtime after trailing 5-0 to begin the third period.
I’m going to be honest right now. I know the Maple Leafs lead the league in most comeback wins this season, but I did not expect them to force overtime once it was 5-0. However, they did, and they secured themselves at least a point after not deserving one through the first 40 minutes of the game.

Overtime period:

After scoring five unanswered goals in the third period to force overtime, the momentum was in Toronto’s favour, and rightfully so. But once the puck drops for three-on-three overtime, it’s a new game, and anybody can win. Once that puck dropped in overtime, Toronto and Columbus exchanged scoring chances on either end and gave the fans at Scotiabank Arena an entertaining but stressful overtime. William Nylander had himself a breakaway and put the puck through Merzlikins’ pads, but he kicked it out to the boards. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were on a 2-on-1 of their own but couldn’t get the game-winner either.
Columbus had their moments as well, where they almost scored, but it wasn’t until there was about a minute and a half left on the clock when Zach Werenski dropped the puck for Kent Johnson, and the Port Moody native wired his third of the season – second of the night – past Samsonov for the game-winner.

Who stood out:

It’s a good thing hockey games aren’t 40 minutes long because if that had been the case, nobody would’ve stood out to me in last night’s game against the Blue Jackets.
In the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Maple Leafs turned into a completely new team, and it’s almost like they realized after 40 minutes that they were playing the 28th-placed Columbus Blue Jackets, and it was time to lock in. Since everything good happened for Toronto in the third period, it’s easy to know who had a good showing and contributed to the improbable five-goal comeback to force overtime. William Nylander, who registered ten (!) shots last night, scored his 14th of the season to get the comeback started and also picked up an assist while extending his point streak to seven games (two goals and nine assists).
What else is there to say about Auston Matthews? After lighting the lamp at a historic rate to open the season, he’s had his ups and downs, but over the last two weeks, he has been on a mission. With two more goals and an assist last night, Matthews extended his point streak to four games (seven goals and three assists) while improving his goal totals to nine in December and 23 on the season, which leads the entire league.
Mitch Marner also had a great showing in the third period, scoring a sweet between-the-legs goal three minutes after Nylander scored and added two more assists, picking up his seventh multi-point game of the season. After a slow and mediocre start, Marner has six points in his last two games and has 32 points in 27 games this season.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Saturday night on Sportsnet when they continue their homestand by welcoming in their former GM Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)

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