Twenty-four hours after the Blue Jackets stung the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, the favor was returned in equally stunning fashion Friday night at Scotiabank Arena.
A day after the Maple Leafs coughed up a 3-0 lead and lost on four unanswered goals by the Jackets, they did it themselves just in the nick of time — winning Game 4 to even a best-of-five series at two games apiece with a 4-3 victory in overtime.
Auston Matthews scored 13:10 into overtime to end it with a one-timer on a power play, rewarding the Maple Leafs for scoring three goals in a span of 3:34 at the end of regulation to tie it at 3 with their goalie, Frederik Andersen on the bench for all three goals.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Blue Jackets, who were cruising toward a victory that would have clinched the series in four games to advance out of the NHL’s playoff qualifying round.
Less than two minutes after Boone Jenner gave Columbus a 3-0 lead with his first goal of the series, Toronto’s comeback began. William Nylander cut it to 3-1 with 3:57 left, poking the puck through the pads of goalie Elvis Merzlikins, before Maple Leafs captain John Tavares made it 3-2 just 51 seconds later.
Just 12 seconds after Cam Atkinson missed an open net in the Toronto end, Tavares ripped a wrist shot into to the top left corner over Merzlikin’s shoulder to make Columbus nervous.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Blue Jackets’ hero from Game 3, then missed a long shot at the Maple Leafs’ vacant net with 1:38 left — setting up the tying goal scored by Toronto’sZach Hyman with 22.2 left in regulation.
Atkinson, Vladislav Gavrikov and Jenner scored the goals for the Blue Jackets, while Merzlikins made his first NHL playoff start — a day after making 21 saves in relief of Joonas Korpisalo to win Game 3.
The Blue Jackets played without defenseman Ryan Murray, who was replaced in the lineup by Scott Harrington for undisclosed reasons, and defenseman Zach Werenski left the game after an apparent injury late in regulation.