Photo credit:Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
“Mistakes get magnified when you don’t get saves.” Blue Jackets defeat Maple Leafs 6-5 in overtime
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
After blowing a two-goal lead to the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night and losing, the Toronto Maple Leafs returned to action last night to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team they’ve now seen three times in two weeks, as Toronto opened up the first half of a back-to-back.
Despite being the third meeting between these two teams in a little over two weeks, there wasn’t a lot of action to start the game. I don’t know if that was because these two teams were still finding their feet after the Christmas break or they were playing low-event hockey, given both teams’ firepower offence.
A little over four minutes into the game, the Maple Leafs forced a neutral zone turnover and went the other way. Morgan Rielly collected the puck, skated toward the offensive zone and passed it to Marner, who gave it back to Rielly. He then threw it toward the net, but it took a bounce off a skate and popped out to Marner at the side of the net, and he potted home his 14th goal of the season.
After Marner opened the scoring, the chances came more often for Toronto. From the time of Marner’s goal to just over the midway point of the period, they were outshooting Columbus 6-1 and had three great looks on Elvis Merzlikins, who turned all three shots aside. A Matthews snap shot from the slot, Domi burst to the net on his backhand, and the Blue Jackets netminder even stopped a silky move from Jarnkrok down low, who forced his way to the net.
Although Toronto was all over Columbus up to this point in the first period, Columbus scored the next goal to tie the game up. Timothy Liljegren fell over beside his net trying to clear the puck, and it got picked up by a Columbus player. The puck found its way to Cole Sillinger, and with a ton of room in the slot, he fired his fourth of the season past a screened Samsonov, and just like that, Columbus tied the game on just their second shot of the night.
However, no need to get frustrated. The first line hopped on the ice and went to work. Mitch Marner did a terrific job at protecting the puck and drawing two defenders toward him, freeing up some space for Matthews. Once he received the puck from Marner, he had all the time in the world to snipe one short-side past Merzlikins for his 29th of the season.
After regaining the lead, Toronto continued to generate offence, but Merzlikins kept his team in the game, with the shots being 13-4 for the Maple Leafs. It didn’t get easier for Columbus when they got whistled for an offensive-zone interference penalty, putting Toronto on the power play with roughly two minutes to go in the period.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t take advantage of the late power play, and Toronto entered the first intermission up 2-1 and outshooting Columbus 14-4.
As the teams came out for the start of the second period, Elvis Merzlikins was not out there with his team, and instead, Spencer Martin was in the net for Columbus.
It didn’t take long for Toronto to introduce themselves to Martin. Just 1:35 into the second period, Nick Robertson redirected a Timothy Liljegren point shot past Martin for his fourth goal of the season and first since November 24th against Chicago.
However, the two-goal lead would only last two minutes, as Columbus caught Toronto on a line change and cut the deficit in half in transition. Brendan Gaunce scored his first goal of the season on a weird play. Samsonov made the initial save, but the puck rode up in the air, dropped behind him and into the net. The first goal allowed by Samsonov was a slot shot heavily screened, and now their second goal was a weird fluke goal. You would like Samsonov to make these saves, but when a goalie is struggling like Samsonov is and goals like this are going in… it’s hard.
With Toronto holding onto a one-goal lead despite heavily outshooting Columbus, getting the next couple of goals was crucial for them. They were awarded a power play just before the midway point of the frame as Columbus took a too-many-men penalty, and although it took almost the entirety of the two minutes, William Nylander, with a ridiculous shot from a ridiculous angle, restored Toronto’s two-goal lead. This was Nylander’s 17th goal of the season, extending his point streak to 13 games.
After scoring to make it 4-2, Calle Jarnkrok and Cole Sillinger would get whistled for off-setting minors for roughing, and the teams were off to some four-on-four hockey. However, just seconds into four-on-four hockey, William Nylander was called for a penalty, sending the Blue Jackets to a 4-on-3 power play.
Like Toronto’s power play, Columbus cashed in and got within one goal. Dmitri Voronkov redirected his seventh of the season past Samsonov. And just when you thought Samsonov allowing three goals on ten shots was bad… Columbus scored the next goal to tie things up a minute later. Emil Bemstrom won a puck battle below the goal line despite being outnumbered three to one and fed Kent Johnson in front of the net for his fifth of the season.
Although Columbus tied the game up, Toronto continued to press, looking for the go-ahead goal again. Alexandre Texier was called for high-sticking Timothy Liljegren, and Toronto went to the power play for the third time. It took just five seconds for them to capitalize on the man advantage. William Nylander fired a shot from the point, and John Tavares redirected his 11th of the season past Martin.
Despite holding a 3-1 and 4-2 lead, Toronto saw themselves in a 5-4 game heading into the second intermission. The Maple Leafs outshot the Blue Jackets 13-7 in the second period and held a 27-11 shot advantage after 40 minutes.
Up 5-4 entering the third period, Toronto saw themselves in a weird game. They outplayed their opponent through 40 minutes, but shaky goaltending continued to hurt the Maple Leafs. If you looked at the shot clock after two periods (27-11 for Toronto), you’d think they would have had a sizeable lead. Well, no.
If they were going to walk away from this game with two points, they had to continue to play how they had been playing up to this point but also make Samsonov’s night easier, given how he performed in the first and second periods. Columbus made their third-period push and generated more chances in the third than in the first two.
Toronto and Samsonov did a decent job for the majority of the period, given the Blue Jackets’ pushback. However, with roughly seven minutes to go in regulation, Ilya Samsonov would let in a fifth goal as Adam Fantilli wired his tenth goal of the season past him from distance to tie the game 5-5.
Both teams would trade chances as the remaining seven minutes winded down, but neither team could find the back of the net, and these clubs were headed to overtime for the second time this season.
The fact this game even went to overtime was absurd. They outshot Columbus 33-20 after regulation and held multiple two-goal leads, but as mentioned above, shaky goaltending continued to hurt this team.
It took roughly three minutes into the overtime period for Columbus to score, and to make things worse, it was their first shot on the net in overtime. Columbus won the offensive zone face-off, worked the puck to the point, and it took a bounce in front, putting Samsonov out of position, and Johnny Gaudreau banged home the overtime winner for his third point of the night.
Who stood out:
Every member of the core four scored, and according to the broadcast last night, it was the first time that had happened on the road. That stat was a little crazy to me, but clearly, it wasn’t good enough for the team, given the overtime loss.
Nick Robertson also scored his fourth goal, ending a lengthy goal drought. I thought his line looked solid last night, and besides the Robertson goal, Jarnkrok and Domi had a couple of good looks on the net early on in the game.
I sound like a broken record whenever I bring up Ilya Samsonov’s struggles, but it has gotten to a point where it’s brutal to watch him play between the pipes. Last night’s game was the fifth time in his previous six starts that he allowed four or more goals (six last night against CBJ, five against BUF, six against CBJ, four against NYI and four against CHI). Samsonov now has a record of 5-2-5, which is respectable, but a 3.94 goals against average and a horrendous .863 save percentage. That is not good enough for a goalie who makes $3.55M this season.
Editor’s Note: Sheldon Keefe added some interesting comments following the loss that directly called out Samsonov’s performance and hinted that Brad Treliving should be finding a way to address it.
Fun times in Leafs land and it seems that whether it is a demotion for Samsonov and a recall for Hildeby or Toronto rushing into a trade, the Leafs coach wants another option and probably before their back-to-back games in the middle of the week.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game tonight as they close out the second half of their back-to-back at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from Hockeydb.com)
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