TORONTO – Frederik Andersen held the fort long enough for his teammates to wake up from their West Coast hangover.
The Maple Leafs goalie made 37 saves, Zach Hyman scored the go-ahead goal with less than five minutes to go in regulation and Toronto overcame a sluggish start to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Monday.
The victory stretched the Leafs’ win streak to four games, but wasn’t pretty early as the visitors built a 2-0 lead after a dominant opening 20 minutes.
“We reset in the first intermission,” Andersen said. “None of us were too happy with our effort … we know we can play a lot better.
“We came out in the second and third and proved it.”
After the Leafs tied things on second-period goals by Tyler Ennis and John Tavares, Hyman scored the winner with 4:22 remaining in
The winger won an offensive zone faceoff to the left of Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky before Tavares fed Morgan Rielly, whose point shot was tipped home by Hyman for his second goal of the season.
“Freddie shut the door after that first period and we kind of rallied behind him,” said Hyman, who added an empty netter with 61 seconds left. “All four lines contributed … just a big team win.”
Mitch Marner and Ron Hainsey both had two assists for the Leafs (15-6-0), who were coming off a three-game California sweep that
improved their record away from home to a league-leading 9-1-0.
Monday’s win nudged the Leafs to 6-5-0 at Scotiabank Arena despite a sloppy, uninspired beginning to the night.
Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois each had a goal and an assist for Columbus (12-7-2), while Bobrovsky made 22 stops.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was left fuming by the sequence that led to Hyman’s winner.
“Dumb. It’s peewee coverage,” he said. “We played well enough to win, and not to get a point out of it off a simple coverage off the faceoff, it just pisses you off. “It’s dumb.”
Atkinson stayed hot following a five-goal, three-assist outburst that earned him the NHL’s First Star honours for last week, but it wasn’t enough as the Blue Jackets lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (5-1-2).
Tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, Andersen made a big save on a scramble in the third after Josh Anderson cut in front before Hyman redirected Rielly’s shot past Bobrovsky and then added his empty-net goal.
Toronto got on the board with 6:59 left in the second when Ennis used a couple of spin moves to give himself some room before sliding his third through Bobrovsky’s five-hole from a tough angle to cut the deficit to 2-1.
“Our line has been doing a good job of getting pucks in and working it low,” Ennis said. “It was nice to see it go in.”
Andersen then stopped Josh Anderson’s move to the backhand on a breakaway to keep the Leafs down by one before Marner went to work on the equalizer.
The slick winger, who entered play fourth in league scoring with six goals and 20 assists, stepped past Columbus defenceman Scott Harrington before deftly tapping his own rebound back in front for a hard-charging Tavares to score his 13th.
Marner now has one goal and eight assists during a five-game point streak.
“Our team never gives up,” said Marner, who along with linemates Tavares and Hyman combined for 14 of the Leafs’ 26 shots.
“That’s something we need to make sure we keep going.”
Despite coming out flat following victories over the Los Angeles Kings (5-1), San Jose Sharks (5-3) and Anaheim Ducks (2-1 in overtime) last week, Toronto could have easily found themselves up 2-0 early on Monday.
Ennis hit the post on a 2-on-1 break under three minutes in before Connor Brown somehow chipped a puck off the iron from the lip
of the crease with a down-and-out Bobrovsky at his mercy.
Columbus carried much of the play otherwise and were finally rewarded when Atkinson gave his team the lead with 5:21 remaining in
the first after some sloppy play from Rielly and Hainsey.
Dubois knocked down Hainsey’s clearing attempt and fed Atkinson, who beat Andersen between the pads for his 13th goal and seventh in the last five outings.
Columbus went up 2-0 with 47.5 seconds left in the period on another defensive miscue – Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner were the culprits this time around – as Dubois cleaned up in front after Atkinson lost the puck on an attempted move between the legs for his
“We were skating in mud there,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said of the first. “Wasn’t going very good.
“The guys kind of came alive and found a way, but without (Andersen) it doesn’t happen.”
Notes: There were no penalties called in the game. … Babcock passed Red Kelly and Pat Burns to sit alone in fifth in franchise history with 133 regular-season coaching wins. Punch Imlach leads with 370 followed by Pat Quinn (300), Hap Day (259) and Dick Irvin (215). … Leafs centre Auston Matthews practised with his teammates Sunday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury Oct. 27. The 21-year-old wore a red non-contact jersey for that session and was also out for Monday’s optional morning skate. … Toronto visits the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday before a rematch with the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday.