Columbus emerged victorious from the third-place game at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City on Tuesday, downing Toronto by a 5-4 score in overtime.
Alexandre Texier tallied twice while Nikita Korostelev, Jakob Lilja and Eric Hjorth scored for Columbus, which finished the four-game tournament with two regulation wins, an overtime win and one loss. Veini Vehvilainen made his second start of the tournament and finished with 22 saves.
The Blue Jackets held a 4-1 lead in the third period before a Maple Leafs rally forced overtime, which Texier won with his second OT goal of the event.
Columbus used a solid first period to take a 1-0 lead into the first break. The goal came at 14:04 on a nice individual effort by Korostelev at the end of a long shift in the offensive zone, as he brought the puck off the left wall, deked to the net and then got the puck past goalie Maksim Zhukov from close range.
Vehvilainen had an excellent period as well, with a pair of big stops, one on a 2-on-1 when he denied Giorgio Estephan and also right after a Toronto power play when he gloved a slap shot by Marc-Antoine Pepin.
Video: Highlights from the third place game in Michigan
Columbus then extended the lead to 2-0 near the midway point of the second on Lilja's goal. Fortier played him in behind the defense and the Swedish forward roofed a shot over Zhukov from close range at 9:21 for his first goal of the tourney.
That led to a goalie change for Toronto, with Zachary Bouthillier going in for Zhukov, and the Leafs responded with a power-play goal at 11:43. Vehvilainen had no chance, as the puck squirted out of a scramble in front of his net and onto the stick of Trey Bradley at the left post, and he quickly fired it home.
But Columbus restored its two-goal lead shortly thereafter at 14:40 on a nice play by defensive partners Michael Prapavessis and Hjorth. The former held the puck in the left circle and spied Hjorth cutting to the net, so he fired a back door pass to his defensive partner, who had a yawning cage to shoot in past Bouthillier.
The third-place game looked to be in the bag early in the third when Texier scored to make it 4-1, blowing a shot past Bouthillier at 5:01.
But Toronto replied with a three-goal rally that eventually knotted the score with 3.6 seconds left. Pepin scored at 9:06 with a shot that just crept over the line, then James Hamblin made it 4-3 with a power-play goal on a rebound with 8:59 to play.
Columbus nearly killed the game off after Toronto emptied its net with 1:08 to go, but all it took was one chance to tie it as Matt Bradley tallied during a scramble in the dying moments to make it a 4-4 game.
But overtime belonged to Texier and Vehvilainen. The CBJ goalie made a pair of nice stops and Texier had two great chances to score go for naught before the Blue Jackets center skated into the zone, followed his own rebound and scored from a sharp angle with 1:37 left on the clock.
By the Numbers
Texier finished with four goals and two assists to lead Columbus in scoring in the tournament. With the title game left to play, he is tied with Detroit's Chase Pearson for the points lead. … Korostelev finished with a 2-3-5 line while Egor Sokolov had four goals. Trey Fix-Wolansky and Fortier each finished with 2-2-4 lines. … After being perfect on the penalty kill in the first two games, Columbus gave up five power-play goals in the last two. … Vehvilainen finished with a 2.81 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.
They Said It
Head coach Mike Eaves: "At the end when the game got on the line there, (Texier) raised his level and was a difference maker again. That was pretty special."
Texier: "For me, I want to score every time. It's the same for every player. I put the puck on net, and sometimes you get a little bit lucky. … I think this tournament just helped me a lot before training camp. I was happy to be here and now I just focus on the next one."
Columbus will fly home to get ready for the start of training camp, which begins Thursday. Saturday's on-ice sessions at the Ice Haus are open to the public and the first 1,000 fans will receive a shirt thanks to OhioHealth.