Blue Jackets down Maple Leafs to win series 3-2
Published Sunday, August 9, 2020 10:41PM EDT Last Updated Monday, August 10, 2020 7:09PM EDT
TORONTO -- Joonas Korpisalo made 33 saves as the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 on Sunday to win their best-of-five qualifying round series 3-2.
Columbus, the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference as part of the NHL's 24-team restart to its pandemic-hit campaign, will now face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the usual 16-slot playoff bracket.
Zach Werenski, rookie Liam Foudy, with his first professional goal, and Nick Foligno, into an empty net, scored for the Blue Jackets.
Frederik Andersen stopped 19 shots for the Leafs, who haven't won a post-season series since 2004.
Korpisalo started the first three games of the series, including a Game 1 shutout, before getting pulled with his team trailing 3-0 in Game 3, but got the call with Elvis Merzlikins unfit to play.
In the climax of series accented by dramatic momentum swings - Toronto fell 4-3 in overtime in Game 3 after blowing a three-goal lead before staging a stunning comeback from a three-goal deficit in the final four minutes of Game 4 to stave off elimination prior to winning 4-3 in OT - Columbus opened the scoring at 6:29 of the first period.
After leaving in the final period of Friday's Game 4, Werenski floated a shot from the point that hit Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie in front and sailed past a surprised Andersen inside an empty Scotiabank Arena.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe loaded up his top line with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner, and the trio was buzzing in the offensive zone most of the first two periods. Tavares had his team's best chance of the opening 20 minutes, but his rushed shot at a wide-open net hit the post and stayed out.
Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev grazed the crossbar with a shot earlier in the period, while Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Texier rattled Andersen's mask at the other end.
The Toronto netminder had to be sharp early the second after Justin Holl turned the puck over in his own end. Foudy had one shot before Oliver Bjorkstrand followed up with two more. Tavares and Matthews then came close on Korpisalo and stingy Columbus, while Foligno forced a good pad stop out of Andersen.
Already without Jake Muzzin after he was stretchered off late in Game 2, the Leafs went down to five defenceman not long after when Boone Jenner rocked Barrie in the corner. The Toronto blue-liner stayed down for time and went straight to the locker room.
The Leafs got their first power play when Werenski crosschecked Tavares into the boards, but both the Toronto captain and Matthews couldn't find a way through Korpisalo on good chances.
William Nylander forced a good save out of Korpisalo early in the third after the Leafs killed a Columbus power play.
Toronto continued to push, but Foudy made it 2-0 at 11:20 when he snuck a shot under Andersen on a play that materialized out of nothing as the Leafs were changing.
Leafs winger Andreas Johnsson, who underwent knee surgery in February and was a surprise addition to the Toronto setup after being activated off injured reserve, was robbed by Korpisalo moments later on a terrific opportunity.
Unlike Friday's chaotic finish, the Blue Jackets killed the game off from there, with Foligno icing it into an empty net, and will now play Tampa - the Presidents' Trophy-winning team they upset in last season's first round with a four-game sweep - in the normal playoff format.
Notes: Toronto will be part of the second phase of the NHL draft lottery Monday with the seven other losers from the qualifying round, with a 12.5 per cent chance of securing the No. 1 pick. ... Muzzin watched the game from the stands. ... Johnsson took the place of rookie Nick Robertson. ... Blue Jackets defenceman Ryan Murray returned to the lineup after missing Game 4.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2020.