Leafs draw even
TORONTO 3 COLUMBUS 0 (Series tied 1-1)
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs were two minutes from a resounding, feel-good victory.
They had finally solved Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo and were on the way to evening the teams’ qualifying round series at one game apiece.
Then, while killing a penalty late in Tuesday’s third period, defenceman Jake Muzzin took a crosscheck from Pierre-Luc Dubois before stumbling and jamming his head into the leg of Blue Jackets winger Oliver Bjorkstrand.
When the bruising blue-liner tried to get up, he couldn’t. A stretcher was eventually wheeled onto the ice inside a fan-less, deathly quiet Scotiabank Arena as players from both teams looked on.
The Leafs would seal a 3-0 victory over Columbus, but their thoughts were elsewhere at the final buzzer.
“What he brings to our team is immeasurable,” Toronto captain John Tavares, who scored the game’s second goal, said of Muzzin. “Certainly tough to see, especially just how much we love that guy.”
The Leafs tweeted 31-year-old was transported to hospital, adding he was alert and able to move his limbs.
“We’re all praying for him,” Toronto winger Mitch Marner said. “There’s a lot bigger things than hockey.”
As for the game, Auston Matthews opened the scoring for the Leafs, finding a crack in Korpisalo on Toronto’s 56th shot of the series after the 26-year-old netminder making his post-season debut recorded a 2-0 shutout in Sunday’s opener.
Frederik Andersen made 20 saves to record his first post-season shutout with Toronto, the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference as part of the NHL’s 24-team restart to its pandemic-delayed campaign. Morgan Rielly added an empty netter with 42.6 seconds left as the Leafs dominated from start to finish.
“We forechecked really hard,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Our guys brought it to another level from a competitive standpoint.”
Korpisalo, who made 28 saves in Game 1, stopped 36 shots for No. 9 Columbus, which will look to rebound in Thursday’s Game 3.
“Toronto played a really good game,” said always-fiery Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. “We sucked.”
With the Leafs coming in waves, Matthews deftly redirected a Zach Hyman pass off the rush beyond Korpisalo’s blocker on Toronto’s 28th shot with exactly four minutes left in the second — a goal that would have blown the roof off the building in a normal post-season encounter.
Instead, the players on the ice and bench made all the noise inside their home rink, which is playing host to the East teams as part of the Toronto hub because of COVID-19. The goal sequence was one of the few where Blue Jackets defenceman Seth Jones wasn’t out against Matthews, and the Leafs’ star centre made them pay.
“It’s tight out there and goals are hard to come by,” Matthew said. “It was nice to get that one.”
Before that breakthrough, however, it looked like Toronto might never solve Korpisalo, who was lights out behind a stingy defensive structure that worked to perfection against the high-flying Leafs less than 48 hours earlier.
“Those thoughts can creep in,” Tavares said. “But when we’re playing like that, we have so much belief in each other, and with the type of team we have, that eventually it’s going to pay off.”
Flames 6, Jets 2
EDMONTON — Calgary scored a trio of power-play goals on Tuesday en route to a 6-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets and a 2-1 lead in their qualifying series.
Sean Monahan led Calgary’s attack with a goal and two assists. Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund each scored and had an assist.
Matthew Tkachuk and Milan Lucic also scored, and Johnny Gaudreau produced an emptynetter to go along with a helper. Andrew Mangiapane had a pair of assists.
Calgary starter Cam Talbot made 33 saves for the win. Winnipeg counterpart Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 in the loss.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp scored for the Jets.
Game 4 is Thursday night.