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Leafs rally from five-goal deficit, but fall to Blue Jackets in OT

Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate Columbus Blue Jackets - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs showed resiliency Thursday night but it didn't come with the desired result.

Kent Johnson capped a two-goal effort with the overtime winner as the Columbus Blue Jackets held off a late Toronto comeback to top the Maple Leafs 6-5. Toronto scored five goals in the third period after entering the frame down 5-0.

"We've been a resilient group all season, it's a credit to the guys," Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. " … (We wanted to) give our fans something to feel good about in the third period, give ourselves something to be proud of (with) what we put forth in the third period."

"We've got to be ready to play," Auston Matthews added. "Just a lot of the detail stuff wasn't in the first (period). The second wasn't maybe as bad as the score portrayed but all of their chances went in and none of ours did."

Toronto was down 26-25 in the shot department after two periods before scoring on five of its 21 third-period shots.

"We had a goal in mind to go out there and put as many pucks on net, try to get guys around there, still make our plays and we were able to do that," Mitch Marner said.

Patrik Laine, Justin Danforth, Yegor Chinakhov and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Columbus (10-16-5). Elvis Merzlikins made 43 saves.

"I'm going to go through my emotions," Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent said before pausing to say, "I'm going to watch it, I don't want to talk about ... going into the details.

"We're learning that third period thing. Found a way to win the game. Came here to get two points, we got two points."

William Nylander, Marner, Jake McCabe and Matthews, with two goals, replied for Toronto (15-6-6). Ilya Samsonov stopped 29 shots.

With Samsonov having given up five goals through two, Keefe said he was tempted to pull him but followed goaltending coach Curtis Sanford's advice to keep Samsonov in.

"Curtis felt strongly that Sammy should stay in," Keefe said. "I'm glad that's the decision that we made."

Nylander ended the Leafs' dry spell 38 seconds into the third period, scoring on a one-timer from Matthews.

Marner then scored a between-the-legs goal, beating Merzlikins five-hole 3:49 into the frame.

McCabe made it a two-goal game on the power play with 5:39 remaining, netting his first of the year with a slapshot from the point.

Matthews fired a one-timer from Nylander that trickled in with 1:15 remaining.

Matthews netted another one-timer but from Marner with 44.4 seconds left to force overtime.

However, Johnson halted the hopes of the Toronto faithful, wiring home a wrist shot with 1:34 remaining in the extra period to secure the victory.

Laine opened the scoring for Columbus 6:19 into the first period. Johnson found Laine from behind the goal after a Max Domi giveaway, and the Finnish winger beat Samsonov glove side.

Johnson doubled the Blue Jackets' lead 11:56 into the frame. Andrew Peeke sent in a shot from the point and Johnson tipped it into the top right corner of the net.

Danforth hopped in on the action 8:16 into the second period. Danforth scored on a rebound off an Ivan Provorov miss, where he sent a backhand shot that went in off Samsonov.

Chinakhov made it a 4-0 game at 10:45 of the frame. He drove in down the left side, held off T.J. Brodie and beat Samsonov blocker side.

Gaudreau caused a rain of boos from the Scotiabank Arena crowd with 5:41 remaining. He got Brodie to bite on a toe drag and wired a wrist shot past Samsonov.


Toronto forward Ryan Reaves went down after colliding with the boards just before the midway mark of the opening frame. He left the ice with some assistance favouring his left leg and was ruled out with a lower-body injury. Keefe said Reaves would be "out for a while."

Laine went down 6:48 into the second, leaving the ice under his own power after being tripped by William Lagesson and crashing into the boards. He was ruled out with an upper-body injury.


The Leafs play the second of a three-game homestand against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

The Blue Jackets head home to face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2023.