On Friday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs faced off against the Columbus Blue Jackets for game four action. The Blue Jackets entered the game only needing one more win to finish the series. In a game that was seen as astounding to many, Auston Matthews stood out from the rest with his late game heroics and made the story of the night.
At the beginning of the game’s first period, fans were treated to a show as Elvis Merzlikins lost his stick while trying to play the puck forward to his defensemen. This saw Mitch Marner attempt a shot on net as he went for a wraparound, having to avoid Merzlikins’ stick and attempt to beat the goalie in getting back to his net. Merzlikins ultimately blocked the shot from Marner, using the pads and his gloves to stop the shot and needing to make a quick recovery to prevent any further offensive attempts.
Columbus quickly turned the play around with Pierre-Luc Dubois rushing into the Leafs’ defensive end with Cam Atkinson slightly behind. Dubois blew past Justin Holl, but couldn’t get a shot on net, instead passing the puck to Atkinson, allowing him to fire off the shot past Frederick Andersen and seeing the Blue Jackets take a 1-0 lead with just over four minutes played.
With just over two minutes left in the first, Columbus took the first penalty of the game with Zach Werenski sent to the box for a tripping call. The Leafs’ power play unit would not prove effective on this outing, ending the period with the Blue Jackets still in the lead.
The puck dropped on period two with tensions running high between Toronto and Columbus. Just under five minutes into the frame, the Blue Jackets struck again, scoring their second goal of the night. The goal came from Vladislav Gavrikov after a passing play from the blue line, receiving the puck from David Savard with the second assist going to Alexandre Texier.
Frustration clearly boiled over, as after taking a delayed slashing penalty, Jason Spezza got into a fight with Dean Kukan with Spezza was taken to the ground after a spirited bout between the two. The fight would see both players receiving five-minute penalties on top of Spezza’s two minute slashing penalty which saw Columbus go on the power play. Perhaps a sign of what was to come, Kerfoot and Atkinson both took Roughing penalties as the Spezza slashing penalty was coming to an end, seeing both teams go into a stretch of four-on-four action. Not even 30 seconds after the two were called for roughing, Columbus went down another man as Nick Foligno was called for hooking and sent to the box where he sat for two minutes.
After the Leafs power play unit failed to capitalize on another opportunity, they were given a third chance as David Savard took a minor penalty for tripping. However, with 30 seconds left on the power play, Morgan Rielly was sent into the box, being called for a minor penalty for tripping. This led to 25 seconds of four-on-four before the Blue Jackets’ started their power play.
As the third period started the Blue Jackets still had over a minute left on the power play, but the Maple Leafs’ penalty kill unit played well on defence, due in large part to star goalie Frederik Andersen. Not done yet, the Blue Jackets would get another opportunity on the power play with nine minutes played when Mitch Marner took a tripping penalty. Again, however, the Leafs were able to handle the offensive pressure and prevent any goals from occurring.
Both teams would continue to go back-and-forth in terms of puck possession until the Blue Jackets put themselves forward to a 3-0 lead with a goal from Boone Jenner. The goal from their alternate captain was fed to the net by captain Nick Foligno.
Two minutes after the Blue Jackets had scored their third goal, it was clear that they had started to feel complacent with the lead as their defence slipped up and the Maple Leafs scored their first goal of the night. The goal was netted on a passing play, scored by William Nylander, after receiving a cross ice pass from Zach Hyman who had gotten possession prior to from Mitch Marner. Showing some offensive momentum, the Leafs won the face-off in the neutral zone and brought their tally to two goals in 45 seconds.
This was the case as captain John Tavares scored his first goal of the series. His goal was made after a slip feed from Auston Matthews who received a pass from Mitch Marner through the open ice.
With under 30 seconds left, the Leafs held the puck in the offensive end, they needed a goal to equalize the score and take the game into overtime. Zach Hyman was able to provide it, levelling the score to a tie of 3-3. His goal was played in front of Merzlikins by Nylander and Matthews, giving Hyman enough space to slip the puck into the net while the goalie attempted to transition to the right side to block a shot.
Going into overtime, the Blue Jackets bench was looking defeated and the players on the ice were clearly frustrated. Both teams traded putting on offensive pressure, until Morgan Rielly gathered the puck in his defensive end, only to be tripped by left-winger Nick Foligno. Foligno was sent to the box with what would prove to be a costly penalty. From the offensive zone face-off, the Leafs were able to start a play to Auston Matthews who scored the overtime winner with a quick shot that beat Merzlikins in the net’s top left corner.
After this game, the Leafs should have some extra motivation going into game five against the Blue Jackets on Sunday. Puck drop is scheduled to take place at 8:00pmET at Scotiabank Arena. The game is available for viewing on Sportsnet Ontario, NBC and TVA Sports. It can also be heard via radio on Sportsnet 590 and 97.1 FM.