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Maple Leafs blow three goal lead, face elimination tomorrow

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Same old, same old.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 06: Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring his second goal of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 06, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario.
Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

You know what happened. The Toronto Maple Leafs had a 3-0 lead in the second period, and then over the second half of the game and for a nearly period-long overtime, they gave it all back to lose 4-3. The series is now 2-1 in the favour of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who can knock the Leafs out Friday at 8pm.

Cody Ceci, William Nylander, and Nick Robertson all scored their first goals of the playoffs in the loss. Auston Matthews looked like an elite elite player. Frederik Andersen was doing everything he could to keep the team in it. But in the end, the team stopped skating the moment they came across some adversity, or momentum, or pressure, or whatever you want to call it. They stopped skating and they were doomed from that moment on.

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the game-winning goal in overtime, completing a hat trick. He’ll be labeled a Leaf-killer for the rest of his career, I’m sure. The Leafs chased Joonas Korpisalo in the second, but Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 21 shots he faced in 50 minutes for the win. The Leafs only had 36 shots in just less than 80 minutes of play, they had double that rate in Game 2.

I’m sorry for the cheery nature of the first half of this recap, it was a different time when I wrote it.

First Period

The Blue Jackets were pushing hard early in the period. And while they weren’t really making Frederik Andersen struggle in net, they were leaving acres of space behind them in the defensive zone.

Alex Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen basically had a 2-on-0 behind the net as they both beat our every Blue Jacket on an icing. The entire Tavares line only had Zach Werenski around them with William Nylander holding the puck behind the net that led to a great chance for Tavares in the slot. Engvall, Clifford, and Spezza also had a few chances around the net in the first five minutes of the period as well.

Post! Boone Jenner nearly scored on a counterattack after Ilya Mikheyev couldn’t get the shot through at the other end. Cody Ceci did a good job of getting back and disrupting the initial 2-on-1, but Jenner was following up and got a shot off from the slot that pinged off the post and bounced around Andersen while the Leafs scrambled. Rielly, Ceci, Nylander, and Mikheyev did well to find the rebound and clear it for an icing, not allowing a rebound to reach Andersen.

With Travis Dermott in the box for interference near the end of the period, Jenner got another chance that Andersen had to make a good save to stop, Marincin cleared the rebound and...

1-0

CODY CECI SCORES A SHORTHANDED GOAL OFF THE FOOT OF SETH JONES AND THE LEAFS TAKE THE LEAD!!!

I honestly don’t even know what else to say. Legendary goal. We all thought Marincin would be the hero, but we all forgot about this team’s real star defender, Cody Freaking Ceci.

After One

While the first half of the period had us worrying whether this game was a repeat of Game One, Two, or a bit of both, it turned out that the Leafs absolutely dominated by the end of the period. At 5v5, they were up in shot attempts (26-19), shots (7-6), and scoring chances (17-5). There were a lot of blocked shots in the period, including seven for the Blue Jackets and nine for the Leafs (three for Auston Matthews alone). The Leafs out-shot the Blue Jackets on their own power play (that produced the Ceci goal, still can’t believe that happened). The expected goals were 89% in the Leafs favour, as well. Insane.

Second Period

Marner finally looked like he had woken up for a shift in the second when he sent this pass to Zach Hyman for a chance, and then hit the post later in his shift. I still thought he looked a little deflated (ie. a little slow and lethargic), he just doesn’t have the same pop or swagger he has shown in splashes before. I don’t know whether he’s being stifled by the Blue Jackets or if it’s him.

2-0

Mere seconds after Gustav Nyquist had the penalty box door shut on him had the Leafs set up and William Nylander used a brilliant backhand move to beat Joonas Korpisalo for the Leafs second goal of the game. The tally gave Nylander his first goal of the playoffs and Marner his first assist and first point with the brilliant shot-pass from the top of the zone.

3-0

NICHOLAS ROBERTSON SCORES!!! EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING!!

Nrob followed Kapanen into the play and let loose a one-timer from the half boards that trickled through Korpisalo at an agonizingly slow speed, but once it got in there it was official, Nick Robertson at 18-years-old is an National Hockey League goal scorer. Amazing!

Jason Spezza went and grabbed the puck, for those keeping track at home. The oldest player looking out for the youngest.

Goalie Change

With the Robertson goal, Korpisalo was pulled from the game for Elvis Merzlikins. Five goals against in his last game and a half — definitely not up to snuff compared to the guy at the other end.

3-1

The Blue Jackets scored shortly after another power play of theirs (Barrie in the box). Pierre-Luc Dubois shot a whiffler that Andersen nearly caught but was a little too fast for.

I made myself better from the goal against by watching this:

It was really good to see Marner wake up right after my paragraph on him at the top of the second.

After Two

The Leafs extended their lead in the second thanks to the goals from Nylander and Robertson, and while the Dubois goal was disappointing, I think we can all be relieved Mitch Marner has finally gotten into the series. He’s using his space more and it’s making Matthews, Hyman, and himself better.

Third Period

The Leafs killed an early power play with Holl in the box for tripping Liam Foudy. The Blue Jackets didn’t really get any dangerous chances, as the Leafs kept them re-grouping in their own zone for much of the two minutes.

3-2

Things started to get interesting terrifying when Jones got a shot that beat Andersen over his shoulder.

3-3

And the game was tied. Dubois again. Gotta say, Dermott-Holl looked absolutely horrendous in the third period.

Players who I saw move their feet in the third: Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, William Nylander. And it’s why the third period was such a shitshow.

Oh, and this happened.

After Three

Honestly, I was expected overtime by the seven minute mark of the third. The Leafs put some pressure in the final few shifts, and Matthews nearly scored, but it wasn’t to be.

The entire defense and entire forward group who stopped skating in the six minutes before the Dubois goal. The whole team was so sloppy; missed passes, not being in the right spots on the ice, skating by pucks, hesitating, all of it. I just saw every forward waiting around, as if there would be someone that came to save them and do their job. No, it’s your job! Auston Matthews is out there but he’s not on the third or fourth line with you!

Overtime 1

The Leafs played the first five minutes largely in the offensive zone, with Mikheyev nearly beating Merzlikins. Matthews had another chance that was close as well. For the first half of the period, it looked like Sheldon Keefe was playing the Matthews and Tavares lines every other shift so as to keep the pressure on maximum. It did its job, but no goal, not even from Martin Marincin.

Matthews nearly got a breakaway, but the puck was cleared from his stick at the last second. Matthews was so explosive on the play, at the time of this shot I wouldn’t have been surprised if he scored the goal.

And then the Leafs fell asleep defensively and Andersen had to make a series of great saves on multiple shifts in a row.

Tavares nearly won the game at the other side, but Merzlikins just covered the bottom of the net and there was nowhere to go with all the sticks in the way.

3-4

And yea, like a nightmare, Dubois wins it.