More than a few folks in the building had the same thought when Dave Bolland tucked in a rebound with 4:30 left in the third period, cutting the Blue Jackets' lead to 3-2. And it was something like "hang on." But the Blue Jackets, who had the better of the play for most of tonight's game against the Maple Leafs, responded with authority.
Not only did the Jackets ice the game with a Ryan Johansen empty net goal in the final 30 seconds, they tacked another for good measure to secure a 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs tonight on Hockey Fights Cancer night at Nationwide Arena. This game was very much up for grabs after 40 minutes, with the chances fairly even and a 1-1 draw on the scoreboard as the third period began.
As they did on Tuesday night against the Devils, a team that likes to draw teams into playing their style, the Blue Jackets resisted the urge to play the run-and-gun style preferred by the Leafs and wore down a club that had been playing strong hockey in the first three weeks of the season.
Marian Gaborik got things started for Columbus in a pivotal third period, scoring his team-leading fifth goal of the season from a sharp angle at 3:12 of the final stanza. Nick Foligno made a slick play behind the net to pass the puck to himself and slide it to Gaborik, who surprised Jonathan Bernier with a quick shot that squeaked under his arm and into the net. Things seemed to be going well for the Blue Jackets at the time, but the game reached its apex midway through the third.
Penalties to Dalton Prout (interference) and Fedor Tyutin (tripping), mixed in with a minor penalty to Toronto's Nazem Kadri (tripping), set the stage for the Leafs' second-ranked power play to get a 4-on-3 opportunity in a one-goal game. The Blue Jackets disrupted the Leafs on that power play, and scored the dagger on a shorthanded breakway started and finished by Brandon Dubinsky at 12:27.
Sergei Bobrovsky was solid once again for the Blue Jackets, picking up his second straight win and made 23 saves in the process. He did his best work in the third period when Toronto put 12 shots his way, with the lone goal coming from Bolland in the latter stages.
How quickly can a game change in the NHL? It took a matter of seconds tonight, with the Leafs licking their chops on the 4-on-3 and then giving up the game-winning goal in the same breath. All of 35 seconds elapsed between Tyutin's penalty to create the 4-on-3 and Dubinsky's shorthanded beauty - and that goal stood up as the game winner in the Blue Jackets' third consecutive win.
1. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
Dubinsky was named the No. 1 star for the second straight game and he was, yet again, a monster for the Blue Jackets playing in all situations. Dubinsky scored the game-winner in the third period, was instrumental in keeping the Leafs' potent power play off the board, and won 13-of-17 face-offs (76 percent) in the game.
2. RYAN MURRAY (CBJ)
Todd Richards is finding more minutes for this kid with each passing game, and the way he's playing, he's earning every second. Murray opened the scoring tonight with his first NHL goal just 4:55 into the game, played 20:11 total and fired three shots on goal. More confidence, more ice time, more impressive by the day for the 20-year-old rookie.
3. NICK FOLIGNO (CBJ)
Since he returned last weekend from dealing with a personal matter, Foligno has played a rock-solid game on the Jackets' top line with Anisimov and Gaborik. He scored the fifth goal tonight but also made the key play on Gaborik's go-ahead goal in the third period.
VS. ANAHEIM DUCKS
SUNDAY, 6 P.M.
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