The Blue Jackets, playing a skilled Maple Leafs team that’s starting to feel better about itself, didn’t want to give them a reason to do so early in tonight’s game. They took a minor penalty 73 seconds in and survived that, but fell behind late in the opening period on a Phil Kessel goal that stood up after a lengthy review.
BLUE JACKETS 1 | MAPLE LEAFS 4
And that was the start Toronto needed against an obviously depleted Blue Jackets club that’s battling a long list of injuries. Jonathan Bernier picked up the victory between the pipes for the visiting Leafs, who responded well when they were tested and took advantage of their opportunities to pick up their second straight win.
Curtis McElhinney, currently occupying the role of No. 1 goaltender while Sergei Bobrovsky recovers from a broken finger, played well in goal for the Blue Jackets but didn’t get enough run support. He made a few key stops in the second period to keep Columbus within striking distance, and they had a chance down just 2-0 with 20 minutes to play.
Kessel’s goal came with 4:32 left in the first period and required a review to determine whether the puck fully crossed the goal line. It was initially waved off by referees Chris Lee and Ghislain Hebert, but the NHL Situation Room in Toronto was able to determine that it was indeed a good goal.
David Clarkson made it 2-0 at 11:53 of the second period, re-directing a wrist shot from Dion Phaneuf past McElhinney for a power play goal that served as a strong response to a second period push from the Blue Jackets.
Cam Atkinson’s fifth goal of the year got the Blue Jackets within 3-1 with 9:20 left in regulation, slamming in a rebound off a quick shot from Ryan Johansen (who extended his points streak to 10 games, tying a franchise record set by RJ Umberger).
Daniel Winnik pounced on a Columbus turnover and made it a 4-1 game with 3:33 to go.
"We weren't sharp in our execution," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We didn't generate nearly enough 5-on-5. We have to be better. All of us. Sometimes when things aren't going right, it puts you on your heels. We need to get past that and play on our toes.
"If we're going to go down, let's go down swinging and playing our way. We need to put games (like this) behind us and get ready for New Jersey tomorrow."
Kadri’s goal put it away for Toronto and made the hill a little steeper for the Blue Jackets early in the third period. Columbus needed a quick start in the final period to get back in the game, but instead, it was the Leafs who seized the opportunity on an odd-man rush to make it 3-0.
1 - Kessel (TOR)
2 - Winnik (TOR)
3 - Bernier (TOR)
at New Jersey Devils
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET