Patrik Laine scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Tuesday night in Ohio. Auston Matthews had three points in the loss, with Michael Bunting and Jason Spezza scored for the team, while Jack Campbell gave up four goals on 30 shots. Brendan Gaunce and Adam Boqvist also scored for the Blue Jackets.
It was a self-inflicted loss for the Leafs, as they gave the puck over constantly in all three zones, leading to three of the four goals against. Offensively, Tavares and Nylander had all the scoring chances in the world (18 shots combined), but couldn’t beg a goal in.
Ilya Lyubushkin showed his limitations in his Leafs debut. Making a couple hits, but not moving the needle very much. He also lost the puck at the offensive blueline, leading directly to the Blue Jackets third goal in the third period to put the Leafs down.
Fan confidence might be at its nadir so far this year and at its lowest since the offseason. Hopefully there’s nowhere to go but up, but it’s hard to find positives for a team with so much invested and so much expected.
However, the only way forward is through as the Leafs are now possibly without Jake Muzzin for the rest of the season. Kyle Dubas would have cap space in that scenario, and swinging big to make a substantial addition could be what’s necessary to wake this team up and fortify them.
Elliotte Friedman mentioned JT Miller as a big swing during the intermission report.
Campbell found himself out at sea behind the net with the puck, turning it over to the Blue Jackets. He scrambled, and along with David Kampf sliding across, somehow stopped the shot from going in. C’mon, Jack.
The Leafs didn’t have the most encouraging start, but Gavrikov took a penalty, sending the Leafs to the first power play of the game. Marner’s first chance from the point was batted away by a defender in the slot. Tavares tipped a Rielly shot wide. They tried to get Matthews a shot, but CBJ really overloaded to cover him and disrupt the front of the net. He did whack the crossbar, at least.
Marner with an A+ effort to set up Bunting for the game’s opening goal. Even with his feet in the air, Marner can get the puck across for a big shot. Marner was going to draw a penalty on the play from Gavrikov (who hasn’t looked good in this game), but obviously it wasn’t needed.
Just as I thought the period was coming to an end, this had to happens. Nyquist got a rebound up over Campbell, but the goalie Scrambled to keep the puck out, and Dermott cleared it away for sure.
The Leafs drew a second penalty after this moment, and should’ve drawn a 5-on-3 but the refs chose to advert their eyes.
No call on this. Totally legal and normal. We should include penalties in GAR and stuff. pic.twitter.com/KckR3QBVsg— Shawn Ferris (@shawnferris98) February 23, 2022
The Leafs have been really bad at getting the puck out of the defensive zone recently, including in this period. They’re winning battles, but not making first passes. This has led to lots of turnovers and the inability to get the offense going. Even Liljegren, who has a notable stretch pass, has been getting cut off consistently. The whole defense, as well as the wingers, have looks slow and lackadaisical going out of the zone. Lyubushkin didn’t improve this issue. Ben Chiarot won’t either, this team needs some puck movers.
The Leafs took the lead, but they were really bad in the first period. 10-22 in the shot attempts, not very different score adjusted. 34% of expected goals, not good enough.
Liljegren had to go to the locker room early after another greasy scrum from the Blue Jackets, this time from Voracek, who headlocked Liljegren for a while without a call or disruption from the referee who was right there.
Liljegren had to go to the room after this scuffle with Voracek— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2022
(glad someone saw it happen) pic.twitter.com/wz58oXT7mB
Patrik Laine scored on another neutral zone turnover (Werenski on Marner) and it was a clean 2-on-1 for the goal. Rielly was up in the play, and Lyubushkin took the pass rather than the shot. Not the wrong play by any means, but Laine is famous for his shot, so in hindsight a different result could’ve happened.
Patrik Laine converts on the turnover pic.twitter.com/gM5fHXd1W9— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2022
Tavares has definitely struggled in the past while, but after getting a little frustrated on the power play, he had a couple positive shifts with Nylander where they both looked very dangerous. They’ll get scoring again, things are just a little down right now.
Matthews also heated up in the middle of the period with these chances. He got a lot of hard sticks to the back around the boards on this shift, but he was relentless with the puck.
Bunting with a quick no-look pass to Matthews pic.twitter.com/BLMhBy0YvP— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2022
And there’s the goal! Matthews from his set-up man, DAVID KAMPF! Matthews with his champagne 34th goal of the season and Kampf with his 18th point (his career high is 19).
Nylander almost made it a multi-goal lead with this contested breakaway. Rielly got called for hooking Laine (with less contact than this one) on a breakaway.
Nylander takes off— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 23, 2022
Tavares gets the follow-up chance pic.twitter.com/HjEP8JEEAI
It was a better period for the Leafs when it came to shots (17-6), but what could’ve been a 3-1 or 4-1 game was only 2-1. Tavares and Nylander had multiple chances, but they both remain snakebitten.
Boqvist (from Chicago for Seth Jones) walked through four guys at the start of the period and tied the game. Dermott was way too passive as the shot came, trying to block the shot rather than attack the stick. Berube got the assist on the goal.
Tavares responded with a hard push towards the net from behind. Nylander followed up with a couple dangerous shots. They’re getting chances, just nothing going in.
Dean Kukan did not like Pierre Engvall on this shift. Literally chased him around the ice as the play went on. Not exactly what I’d call man-on-man defense.
I knew it. The moment Lyubushkin whiffed on the pass at the blueline, I knew it was going in. Gaunce scored five-hole on Campbell to give the Blue Jackets their first lead of the game.
Lyubushkin went full Phaneuf there— Hardev (@HardevLad) February 23, 2022
The Leafs applied more pressure offensively, but got some limited good chances. They then gave up a 3-on-1 that Campbell had to stop. A lot of this is self-inflicted by the Leafs being slow, out of position, and off the pace. All of those words are synonyms, so I guess you could just say slow.
Keefe pulled Campbell with two and a half minutes left. Matthews and Tavares nearly connected on a shot-rebound on the right side, but nothing doing. That was the team’s 40th shot of the game and 29th scoring chance.
SPEZZA TIES IT IN FRONT!!! Matthews took a shot from the wing and Spezza buried the rebound with his skate (and probably got a piece of the puck with his stick before it went in). Leafs get the game tied with two minutes left. Nylander and Tavares were huge on that play, creating pressure, with Tavares getting his 30th assist of the season. Matthews with his third point of the night.
Laine wins it immediately.