Auston Matthews scored 13:10 into overtime to complete a three-goal comeback and give the Toronto Maple Leafs a season-saving 4-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Friday.
Toronto is the first team to avoid postseason elimination with a win after trailing by three goals with less than four minutes remaining in the third period.
"I don't really know what to really feel in the moment, to be honest," Matthews said. "I think your mind just kind of goes blank, and I think it's a credit to every single guy on our team for just sticking with it, battling back and just not quitting down 3-0 with a couple minutes left. I think that's a testament to each guy in this locker room and I think everybody should be extremely proud of each other."
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Zach Hyman tied it 3-3 with 23 seconds left in the third period, after William Nylander and John Tavares scored 51 seconds apart to draw Toronto within 3-2 at 16:54 of the third. Hyman completed the comeback with Toronto's third goal in 3:34 on a low shot.
All three goals were scored with the same six Maple Leafs on the ice and goalie Frederik Andersen pulled for an extra attacker.
"It's not over until the time runs out," Hyman said. "Once you get that first one. you're only down two. And then we got the second one pretty quick after that. The belief starts to grow. It grows, it grows, and then you give yourself a chance. You keep putting pucks on the net, and then we tied it up with 20 seconds there. Then 'Matts' got the OT winner and we've got life. I think it's an exhilarating win. We've got to temper our emotions and get back at it for Game 5 (on Sunday)."
Video: EA Sports OT Winner: Matthews wins it for the Leafs
Tavares set up Matthews, who scored on a one-timer 10 seconds after Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno was penalized for tripping.
Matthews had two assists for his first three-point NHL postseason game. His second goal of the series was his 12th in 24 postseason games.
Cam Atkinson, Vladislav Gavrikov and Boone Jenner scored to give Columbus, the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference, a 3-0 lead with 5:42 left.
"I'm not going to dissect this one," Atkinson said. "It's a series for a reason. They clearly wanted it more than us. We'll be ready to go for Sunday."
Video: TOR@CBJ, Gm4: Atkinson buries Dubois' feed
Game 5 is in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, FS-O). The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and play the loser of the round-robin game Saturday between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers.
Andersen made 36 saves for Toronto, the No. 8 seed, which blew a 3-0 second-period lead in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 on Thursday.
"Columbus was doing a terrific job of really clogging things up in the neutral zone, so we didn't have a lot of life going," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. "As coaches it's our job to get the right people on the ice. Obviously, we had to pull the goaltender a lot earlier than you would normally want to. We just thought coming out of the TV timeout and the fact that we needed three goals and our best guys were fresh, it just made sense.
"We found a way to get one in. Suddenly you get the second one and now you're in a game. It's pretty remarkable, it's been a pretty crazy 24 hours."
Blue Jackets top-pair defenseman Zach Werenski left the game with 9:08 remaining in the third period. As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
"We just stopped moving our feet, kind of stayed back and stopped forechecking the left side," said Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones, who played 33:11. "They took advantage of it."
Video: TOR@CBJ, Gm4: Jenner skates in alone and scores
Nylander's goal at 16:03 made it 3-1 and ended Elvis Merzlikins' shutout streak at 105:38. The Blue Jackets rookie saved each of the 21 shots he faced Thursday after relieving Joonas Korpisalo at 8:48 of the second period in Game 3. He made 36 saves Friday before allowing a goal.
Tavares' second goal of the series got Toronto within 3-2 at 16:54.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, who scored the game-winning goal to complete the Blue Jackets' first postseason hat trick Thursday, scored his fourth point in two games setting up Columbus' first first-period goal of the series, by Atkinson at 3:58.
Gavrikov put the Blue Jackets up 2-0 at 4:40 of the second, and Jenner made it 3-0 off a turnover at 14:18.
"I think we've just got to play to our strengths, what makes us successful," Jenner said. "It's a do-or-die game on Sunday, so it's got to be our best."
Toronto is the third team to win an NHL postseason game after trailing by three that late in the game.
The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in double overtime after trailing 3-0 with 3:16 remaining in the third period of Game 5 of the 2017 Western Conference Second Round, and the Oilers defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3 in overtime after trailing 3-0 with 4:00 left in the third period of Game 3 of the 1997 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin contributed to this report
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