Columbus lost Game 4 of their Stanley Cup Playoffs qualifying series, dropping a 4-3 decision to Toronto in overtime on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs advance to the deciding Game 5 on Sunday night.
Game in a Paragraph
In a wild game, Columbus built a 3-0 lead through the first 56 minutes then watchied it all fall apart before in the last four minutes before the Maple Leafs won in overtime on a power-play goal by Auston Matthews. Cam Atkinson scored in the opening minutes then Columbus doubled the advantage when Vladislav Gavrikov scored his first-ever postseason goal in the second period. Boone Jenner had looked to clinch the game when he made it 3-0 with under six minutes to go, but Toronto scored three times in the last 3:57 with the goalie pulled. Then Matthews' tally came at 13:10 of the extra frame.
- Atkinson's goal was his second of the series and his franchise-record ninth of his CBJ postseason career. He also leads all Blue Jackets' postseason scorers with 23 points in 31 games.
- Pierre-Luc Dubois added an assist on Atkinson's opening goal, giving him a goal and three helpers in the past two games.
- Elvis Merzlikins turned aside 49 shots in the losing effort.
- Jenner scored the eighth goal of his postseason career with the Blue Jackets.
Video: TOR@CBJ, Gm4: Atkinson buries Dubois' feed
Quote of the Game
Atkinson: "It is what it is. I thought for the most part we played a really good game. Take the positives, move on and be ready for Sunday."
Things nearly started in disaster for the Blue Jackets as on the first shift of the game Merzlikins and Seth Jones miscommunicated when the goalie stopped the puck behind the net, and Mitchell Marner grabbed it and nearly beat Merzlikins back to the post only to see the CBJ netminder athletically get over to make the stop.
Then the Blue Jackets got the first goal of the game shortly thereafter as Atkinson scored on the rush. Again, Dubois used his speed in transition, gathering up a head of steam and jetting by defensemen Justin Holl and Martin Marincin before centering a pass to Atkinson at the doorstep for a slam dunk past Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen.
Merzlikins made the lead stand up with a pair of solid saves later in the period, as he moved left to right to deny a one-timer by Nicholas Robertson and also dove backwards at one point to cover the puck in the crease near the post after Pierre Engvall's rebound try got behind him.
Those saves proved huge when the Blue Jackets doubled their advantage early in the second period on a goal by Gavrikov. Columbus completed a strong shift in the zone when David Savard swung the puck to his defensive partner on the left point, and Gavrikov's shot hit Marner's stick and fluttered over the glove of Anderson.
Merzlikins continued to be solid through the second, adding a rebound save on John Tavares after Gavrikov's goal and then denying Auston Matthews with his glove as the Maple Leafs had a power play late in the period.
Columbus had the best scoring chances of the early third period, as Liam Foudy drove a shot off the crossbar in the opening minutes and then Andersen had to make a big stop on Eric Robinson in the low left circle.
The Blue Jackets played textbook defensive hockey for most of the period and then took a 3-0 lead with Jenner's goal with 5:44 to go. Nick Foligno dispossessed Morgan Rielly in the Toronto defensive zone then fed Jenner in all alone for him to blow a shot past Andersen's blocker.
Video: TOR@CBJ, Gm4: Jenner skates in alone and scores
But just when it looked like Columbus had the game in the bag, things changed when the Maple Leafs pulled the goalie with more than four minutes to go. William Nylander took advantage, making it a 3-1 game with 3:57 to go when the puck caromed off the back wall and the Leafs forward was able to pinball it home. Then Tavares scored on the rush with a laser beam over Merzlikins' glove with 3:06 to go. Finally, with 22.2 seconds on the clock, Matthews fed Zach Hyman for a shot from low on the left that slipped through Merzlikins with Tavares in front.
That all led to a frantic overtime that went back and forth, with both teams earning some quality chances only to be denied by Merzlikins and Andersen. It ended at the 13:10 mark, though, with Foligno in the box for tripping. Ten seconds after the penalty call, Tavares fed Matthews across the slot and alone in the right circle for a one-timer past Merzlikins.
Merzlikins' assist was the second for a goalie in CBJ postseason history, as Steve Mason earned one in Game 4 in 2009 vs. Detroit. ... His 49 saves were the second most in franchise history in a playoff game behind the 54 that Sergei Bobrovsky had in a Game 2 win 2018 vs. Washington. ... Zach Werenski did not join play the last nine minutes of regulation or overtime after suffering an injury in the third period. ... The Maple Leafs became the third team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to win a postseason game.
Columbus made three changes to its lineup from Game 3. At forward, Nathan Gerbe went in for Emil Bemstrom to make his CBJ playoff debut, while Dean Kukan and Scott Harringotn entered the lineup for Markus Nutivaara and Ryan Murray. The other scratches were forwards Josh Anderson (injury), Stefan Matteau, Devin Shore and Kevin Stenlund; defensemen Gabriel Carlsson, Adam Clendening and Andrew Peeke; and goalie Matiss Kivlenieks.
The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs will do it again Sunday night in the deciding Game 5.