By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on December 14, 2023.
TORONTO – 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 on Thursday.
Patrik Laine, Justin Danforth, Yegor Chinakhov and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Columbus (10-16-5). Elvis Merzlikins made 43 saves.
The Blue Jackets came in with a 2-3-1 record in December, with their 5-2 win over St. Louis last Friday snapping a three-game losing skid.
William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Jake McCabe and Auston Matthews, with two goals, replied for Toronto (15-6-6).
Ilya Samsonov stopped 29 shots.
The Leafs entered Thursday’s contest having earned points in seven straight games (5-0-2), including a 7-3 road win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Laine opened the scoring for Columbus 6:19 into the first period. Johnson sent in a backhand pass from behind the goal after a Max Domi giveaway, and Laine beat Samsonov glove side for his sixth of the campaign.
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 for his second of the year.
Danforth hopped in on the action 8:16 into the second period. Danforth got the rebound off an Ivan Provorov miss, and as the puck neared the end boards, he sent a backhand shot that went in off Samsonov for his seventh of the season.
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 for his seventh.
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 for his fifth.
Nylander ended the Leafs’ dry spell 38 seconds into the third period. He scored his 14th on a one-timer from Matthews, who found Nylander open in front from behind the goal.
Marner scored a pretty goal 3:49 into the frame. He took a pass from John Tavares, put the puck between his legs and beat Merzlikins five-hole for his 12th of the season.
McCabe made it a two-goal game on the power play with 5:39 remaining, giving the Toronto faithful an immense amount of life. He scored his first of the year with a slapshot from the point.
Matthews scored on a one-timer from Nylander that trickled in with 1:15 remaining to bring the Leafs to within one.
Matthews netted another with 44.4 seconds left on a one-timer from Nylander to force overtime.
Johnson wired home a wrist shot with 1:34 remaining in the extra period to secure the victory.
Forward Ryan Reaves was down for a bit as play was halted 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.
Reaves tried to corral a puck by the boards in Columbus’ zone and seemed to have lost his balance. His knees hit the boards first, with his left one seemingly taking the brunt of the collision.
Laine went down 6:48 into the second, leaving the ice under his own power favouring his left shoulder and was ruled out with an upper-body injury.
Laine and William Lagesson were battling for the puck when Lagesson tripped Laine, causing him to fall and collide into the boards with Lagesson sliding right into him.
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.