Leafs Bend but Don’t Break in Nervy 5-4 Win over Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena on Monday night as they ended a stretch of four games in seven days, while the Leafs opened up a back to back.

Columbus came into the game winning just once in their last five games, with extra time losses to the Kings and the Bruins on back to back nights on Friday and Saturday preceded the game against Toronto.

These two teams last met just 15 days ago when Patrik Laine ended the game with a powerful wrist shot to take a 4-3 OT win.

Toronto also came into the game Monday on a downward spiral, losing their last two games to the Sabres, in disappointing fashion, and a third period collapse to the Canucks on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

Exhaustion might have caught up to the Blue Jackets as they couldn’t muster anything in the first period as Toronto was essentially skating circles around the Jackets skaters for most of the period.

After 20 minutes, the shot counter read 15-5 in Toronto’s favour, while shot attempts were at 33-10, so it was unsurprising that the Buds head into the first intermission up 3-0.

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Ilya Mikheyev got the Leafs on the board nearly halfway through the first period as he potted home his 10th goal of the season as he is on his way to having his most productive season of his NHL career, with 15 points so far in only 27 games.

His 45 point pace across an 82 game season would shatter his previous best of 23 points back in 2019-2020, and while he has missed significant time with injury this season he is showing improvements in his game.

Just six minutes later Mitch Marner whacked home a loose puck in Jackets crease for his 22nd goal of the season, extending his point streak to seven games as well as putting him only four goals back for his career high of 26 set in 2018/19.

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Toronto’s top line wasn’t done as only three minutes later the NHL’s leading goalscorer Auston Matthews extended his lead at the top of the scoring charts with his 40th goal of the season, giving him his third straight 40 goal season and fourth of his career.

The Blue Jackets must have done some real soul searching after 20 minutes because they came out in the second period looking like a much improved team, as they cut into Toronto’s lead just under two minutes in the second when Sean Kuraly redirected a point shot from Max Domi for his ninth of the season.

Both teams traded chances for the second period before Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist threaded the puck to a wide open Oliver Bjorkstrand in front of the Leaf net as he buried his 20th goal of the season.

Colombus would eventually erase their 3-0 deficient just a little over two and a half minutes into the final frame as Leaf captain John Tavares took a holding call to send the Blue Jackets to the power play.

It would be Max Domi who spotted a sneaking Jack Roslovic with a cross ice pass so quick the camera’s couldn’t pick it up.

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Toronto has seen quite a few games in recent weeks with their multi-goal leads seemingly evaporating in the blink of an eye (or roughly in a period), but their bend but don’t break attitude has gotten them out of more than one jam this season.

This time it was courtesy of Alex Kerfoot, who had been send to the fourth line due to the emergence of prospect Nick Robertson getting ice time with Tavares and Nylander, who fired home a laser beam of a wrist shot past Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins for his ninth goal of the season to put the Leafs ahead once again.

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Toronto extended their lead courtesy of Calder candidate Michael Bunting picking up his 20th goal of the season after a nifty play behind the Jackets net, as Toronto’s top line struck once again.

Bunting also extends his point streak to five games with two points on Monday night.

Jackets forward Patrik Laine would wire home his 22nd of the season with under a minute to go in the game, causing some anxiousness for Leaf fans watching, but Petr Mrazek held the fort down and the Leafs closed out another wild, high scoring game.

One thing to note is the emergence of the aforementioned Robertson who was given his second straight start with Tavares and Nylander, as he logged 12:38 minutes of ice-time, as he looked like one of the more lethal Leafs on the evening without picking up any points.

His lethal release and tenacity would be some things to note in his game that might help his rise to Leaf stardom and something to watch out for in the future.

As mentioned above the Leafs head back home to take on the struggling Seattle Kraken on the second half of a back to back Tuesday evening, while the Jackets look to end their three game winless streak with a trip to Long Island to take on the Islanders on Thursday.


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