The Leafs were in Ohio tonight to take on Ryan Lacey’s Columbus Blue Jackets, and just like on Monday, this looked bound to be a great goaltending battle between Sergei Bobrovsky and Frederik Andersen. The Leafs won 4-2 earlier this week, and the Blue Jackets had not played since then, so this was a tough road matchup against a well-rested squad.
The Leafs played well in the first few minutes, but the Blue Jackets scored on their first scoring chance just four minutes in. Morgan Rielly turned the puck over right in the middle of his own zone, and while Andersen saved the first shot, Josh Anderson was lurking around and ready to score on the rebound:
1-0 Columbus on Anderson’s goal (9), assisted by Jenner (6) and Foligno (7).
Toronto responded with a few chances of their own, as the Tavares line had Bobrovsky scrambling, but no one could beat Jay Onright’s favourite player. Frederik Gauthier also had a partial breakaway while Columbus’ defenders were changing, but he could not find the back of the net for his first of the year.
The Blue Jackets doubled their lead at the period’s halfway point, as Anderson beat Hainsey in a race to negate an icing call, then chaos quickly ensued. Frederik Andersen came out to play the puck, but got caught in a puck battle, and the Blue Jackets made him pay. Anderson ended up knocking the puck out of mid-air for this second of the game:
2-0 Columbus on Anderson’s goal (10), assisted by Sedlak (2) and Harrington (5).
As someone who used to play baseball against Anderson, and I can assure you that the hand-eye coordination he displays here is no fluke. It looked like the Blue Jackets were off to a great start, but the Leafs were down 2-0 on Monday as well, so clearly, Toronto had them right where they wanted them.
The Marner line continued to stress out Bobrovsky throughout this period, but it was Ron Hainsey who finally got the Leafs on the scoreboard. Igor Ozhiganov started the play by keeping the puck in the zone, then Par Lindholm won the race to the loose puck and poked it back to Hainsey. With both Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson parked in-front, Hainsey’s shot beat Bobrovsky to cut Columbus’ lead in half:
2-1 Columbus on Hainsey’s goal (3), assisted by Lindholm (6) and Ozhiganov (1).
Congratulations to Ozhiganov for registering his first NHL point. Shots were 12-8 in favour of Toronto this period, but Anderson was clearly ahead in the Anderson vs. Andersen battle.
2-1 Columbus after one.
Columbus’ lead did not last for long. Kasperi Kapanen, who usually streaks down the right wing, decided to change things up and streak down the left wing. He fired a hard wrist-shot that hit Bobrovsky in the right arm, before finding a way into the back of the net:
2-2 on Kapanen’s goal (10), assisted by Kadri (8).
After a penalty-free game between these teams on Monday, and a penalty-free first period tonight, Tavares finally broke the streak with an offensive-zone tripping penalty five minutes in. The Leafs did well to keep Columbus from gaining the zone, but when they finally did get into Toronto’s end, Anderson hit the post. Thankfully, Andersen’s best-friend made the save, and the Leafs soon killed this penalty off successfully.
The Leafs had a couple of chances to take the lead, but just couldn’t find a way to beat Bobrovsky. Marner came in on a one-on-one against Ryan Murray, tried a spin-move, but his backhand shot was stopped. Shortly after, Ennis broke into the zone on a nice rush, but Gauthier could not finish off the resulting scoring chance.
Every player on both teams refused to take a penalty, except for Tavares, who took his second offensive-zone penalty of the period by hooking Dubois. Once again, the Blue Jackets had a heckuva time gaining the zone. Columbus had next to no chances on this man-advantage, and Panarin hauled down Hyman for a tripping penalty with just twenty seconds remaining.
Gardiner hustled back to break up a breakaway opportunity just as Tavares’ penalty was expiring, but Columbus still found a way to score just seconds later. Alex Wennberg intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and fed the puck to Cam Atkinson, who toe-dragged around Tavares on his way to a short-handed goal:
3-2 Columbus on Atkinson’s goal (14), assisted by Wennberg (12).
The Leafs looked like they were the team killing the penalty during this powerplay, and while Kadri came close to scoring after the penalty expired, Toronto could not tie things up before the intermission. 3-2 Columbus after two, even though the Leafs were up 21-14 on the shot clock. The fourth line was playing well, but just couldn’t find a way to score. The Tavares line was also playing well, except for the fact that Tavares took two penalties in this period.
Toronto came out blazing, as Kapanen and Ennis both came close to scoring within the first two minutes. After a few minutes of play in Columbus’ end, Panarin showed us why he’s one of the league’s best wingers with this impressive individual effort (they later gave credit to Markus Hannikainen for tapping the puck in):
4-2 Columbus on Hannikainen’s goal (2), assisted by Panarin (18) and Murray (10).
Dubois took an interference penalty six minutes in, and if the Leafs were planning on coming back, this was a great time to get it started. The best chances of this powerplay came during its final seconds, but an out-stretched Bobrovsky robbed both Leivo and Ennis of a powerplay goal.
The score remained 4-2 at the period’s halfway point, and Andersen made a few big saves to keep his team in this game. The first was a glove save on Foligno after a Gauthier turnover, the second was a pad save off of a partial breakaway from Sedlak, and the third was off a wrist-shot from a streaking Dubois.
The Leafs still needed two goals with five minutes to go, and Josh Anderson tried to help them out by taking a dumb slashing penalty. While there were a few nice chances in the final minutes, Bobrovsky continued to keep the puck out, and the Leafs couldn’t even get this game to within one.
Final Score: Columbus 4, Toronto 2.
The Leafs will head back to Toronto to take on James van Riemsdyk and the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow night. Garret Sparks should be getting the start in that one.