Toronto Maple Leafs Win, but unable to reclaim top spot
It has taken the Toronto Maple Leafs a little while to shake off their West Coast hangover.
Zach Hyman scored two goals late in third period as the Leafs extended their winning streak to four games with a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Hyman’s second goal of the season came with 4:22 left in regulation time. He redirected a shot from the point by Morgan Rielly. Hyman added an empty-netter with 61 seconds remaining.
John Tavares had a goal and an assist, while Tyler Ennis also scored for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen made 37 saves. Mitch Marner and Ron Hainsey each had two assists.
The Leafs were coming off a three-game Californian sweep, while also boasting a league-best 9-1-0 record on the road. The Leafs improved to 6-5-0 at home.
The win wasn’t pretty for the home side as Columbus built a two-goal lead after dominating the first 20 minutes.
MVP Andersen said: “We reset in the first intermission. None of us were too happy with our effort. We knew we can play a lot better. We came out in the second and third and proved it.”
Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois each had a goal and an assist for Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 stops.
The Blue Jackets lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (5-1-2).
“Freddie shut the door after that first period and we kind of rallied behind him,” said Hyman. “All four lines contributed, just a big team win.”
The Maple Leafs came in with the league’s third-best record, while Columbus were one spot back in fourth.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was left fuming by the sequence that led to Hyman’s winner. He said: “Dumb. It’s peewee coverage. We played well enough to win, and not to get a point out of it off a simple coverage off the faceoff. It’s dumb.”
Tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, Marner had a backhand chance for the Maple Leafs from the slot with just over eight minutes to go after Tavares hit the side of the net.
Andersen made a big save at the other end moments later on a scramble in the crease before Hyman redirected Rielly’s shot past Bobrovsky.
Columbus pulled Bobrovsky with 1:45 remaining.
Down 2-0 after the first, the Maple Leafs got on the board with 6:59 left in the second when Ennis used a couple of spin moves and slid the puck through Bobrovsky’s legs from a tough angle.
“Our line has been doing a good job of getting pucks in and working it low,” Ennis said. “It was nice to see it go in.”
Andersen then stopped Josh Anderson’s move to the backhand on a breakaway to keep the Leafs down by one before Marner tied the game.
Marner stepped past Columbus defense-man Scott Harrington before tapping his own rebound back in front of Bobrovsky’s net, where Tavares scored his 13th.
Marner now has one goal and seven assists during a five-game point streak.
“Our team never gives up,” said Marner. “That’s something we need to make sure we keep going.”
Despite coming out flat following victories over the LA Kings (5-1), San Jose Sharks (5-3) and Anaheim Ducks (2-1 in overtime) last week, the Leafs could have easily found themselves up 2-0 early on Monday.
Ennis hit the post on a 2-on-1 break after just three minutes. Then Connor Brown somehow chipped a puck off the iron from the lip of the crease.
Columbus carried much of the play and took the lead with 5:21 remaining in the first after some sloppy play from Rielly and Hainsey.
Dubois knocked down Hainsey’s clearing attempt and fed Atkinson, who beat Andersen between the pads for his 13th goal and seventh in the last five outings.
Columbus went up 2-0 with 47.5 seconds left in the period on another Leafs defensive miscue. Dubois cleaned up in front after Atkinson lost the puck on an attempted move between the legs for his 10th.
With the victory, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock passed Red Kelly and Pat Burns for fifth place in franchise history with 133 regular-season coaching wins. Punch Imlach leads with 370, followed by Pat Quinn (300), Hap Day (259) and Dick Irvin (215).
Next up for the Leafs is the visit of the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.