The Toronto Maple Leafs have forced a decisive game five after a 4-3 comeback win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime.
In a game that looked like it was doomed to be another disappointment for a Maple Leafs organization that continuously finds unique ways to set new lows, the team defied expectations by scoring three goals in the final four minutes to erase a 3-0 deficit and send the contest to overtime.
Columbus came out hard early, wasting no time in their effort to put the Leafs away, opening up the scoring with a goal 3:58 into the first period after Dubois waited out Marincin before sliding a low pass to Atkinson on the doorstep for a tap-in goal. History would repeat itself (a common theme for these Leafs) one period later where Columbus would again score under five minutes into the period with a Gavrikov wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that found its way past Andersen.
Minutes later, 37-year old Jason Spezza attempted to spark some life into this team by fighting someone a decade younger than him. A fight that felt awfully similar to watching your dad throw down with the neighbour in that you don’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed that this had to happen.
The third period is when things would get interesting, a goal from Boone Jenner to make it 3-0 seemed to put the Leafs away for good with just six minutes remaining.
And then everything went wild in a way that only 2020 is capable of.
Sheldon Keefe pulled Andersen with four minutes remaining and it paid off as William Nylander gave Toronto hope by shovelling one in on the doorstep. It marked the first goal scored by a Leafs player against Elvis Merzlikins since the Latvian netminder entered Thursday’s contest in the second period, though it would not be the last. Less than a minute later, captain John Tavares sparked real hope into his team with a beautiful snipe that seemed destined for the back of the net.
As the clock winded down, Toronto continued to fire a barrage of shots at the Blue Jackets net, putting the pressure on a Columbus team desperately trying to end to this series. Then finally, with only 23-seconds left in the game, Zach Hyman received a pass from Auston Matthews and thread the needle past a moshpit of bodies to tie the game and send it to overtime. The teams would exchange chances throughout the extra period before John Tavares finally found a wide-open Auston Matthews whose one-timer won it for the Leafs before most viewers even knew he had the puck.
AUSTON MATTHEWS OT WINNER SERIES TIED pic.twitter.com/oS5E6MCejA
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) August 8, 2020
Just one night after blowing a three-goal lead, Toronto turned the tables and discovered how good it feels to be on the other end of a rapid collapse. Was this game just delaying the inevitable or could this be the sign of a revitalized Leafs team who have now felt the urgency of being on the brink of elimination and fought back against all odds to show they won’t quit without a fight? We’ll find out on Sunday.
Most Valuable Leaf: John Tavares
The captain showed up when the team needed him most in a big way. Scoring late in the third to contribute to the comeback, and then setting up Matthews’ winner is the kind of clutch instinct you want to see from your leader.
Least Valuable Leaf: Mitch Marner
It’s hard to bash someone who got three assists in a four-goal comeback, but the truth is that for the majority of the game (and series) Marner has looked absolutely invisible at best, and downright dreadful at worst. If the Leafs hope to advance further into these playoffs, we’ll need to see a more complete and consistent game from the finesse winger.
Tweet of the Night
if you saw me talk shit about the leafs during the last few hours, no you didn’t
— bea (leafs fan) (@xoxbea) August 8, 2020