TORONTO — Pierre-Luc Dubois scored his third goal of the game in overtime as the Columbus Blue Jackets stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to stun the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Thursday and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five qualifying round series.
After Leafs captain John Tavares turned the puck over in the offensive zone, Columbus broke back the other way, with Dubois roofing a backhand on a break past Frederik Andersen 18:24 into the extra period.
Seth Jones scored in regulation for the Blue Jackets, the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference as part of the NHL’s restart to its pandemic-delayed season.
Cam Atkinson added two assists for Columbus, which can clinch a spot in the regular 16-slot playoff bracket with a victory in Game 4 on Friday night.
Joonas Korpisalo, who recorded a 28-save shutout in his post-season debut in Game 1 and was almost as good in Game 2, allowed three goals on 15 shots before getting the hook in favour of Elvis Merzlikins in the second period with Toronto up 3-0.
Merzlikins was perfect in relief, finishing with 21 saves.
Nick Robertson, with his first NHL goal, Cody Ceci and William Nylander replied for Toronto, the East’s No. 8 seed.
Andersen made 40 saves for the Leafs, while Alexander Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen added two assists each.
Down 3-1 heading into the third, the Blue Jackets tied it up with goals 3:21 seconds apart as the Leafs came unglued.
Jones got Columbus within one at 7:27 on a laser past Andersen’s ear after Toronto couldn’t get the puck out before Dubois, who got an earful from fiery Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella in the Leafs’ 3-0 victory in Game 2, beat the Toronto netminder on a 2-on-1 under the blocker at 10:49.
Andersen stopped Vladislav Gavrikov and Dubois on the doorstep with less than four minutes left in regulation before Merzlikins robbed Auston Matthews from in tight at the other end.
Matthews then turned the puck over in his own zone with less than 40 seconds on the clock, forcing Andersen to make a big stop on Boone Jenner
The Leafs, who like Columbus had 81 points when the schedule was suspended in mid-March because of COVID-19, were without defenceman Jake Muzzin after he was injured on an awkward collision late in Game 2. The 31-year-old _ one of Toronto’s leaders on and off the ice _ was released from hospital and is back at the team hotel inside the secure zone, but unavailable for the rest of the series.
Martin Marincin dressed in Muzzin’s place, with Travis Dermott moving up into the top-4 to play alongside Justin Holl. Dermott and Holl skated together when Muzzin was out with foot and hand injuries before the season was halted because of COVID-19.
Toronto opened the scoring with 68 seconds left in the first while killing a Dermott penalty when Kerfoot showed great patience off the rush. The centre found Ceci arriving late, and he blasted a shot from well out that looked to be going wide, but instead bounced off the skate of Jones and pinballed past Korpisalo.
The goal, which came after Mitch Marner thwarted Jenner at the lip of Andersen’s crease, was not only the first of Ceci’s post-season career, it was also the blue-liner’s first in 57 games and first while short-handed in the NHL.
The Leafs had a couple of great chances earlier in the period, with Ceci, Marner, Kapanen and Tavares all coming close on Korpisalo, while Jenner rattled the crossbar behind Andersen.
Toronto scored the first power-play goal of the series at 7:08 of the second when Marner, who found iron earlier in the period, slid a pass from the point down to Nylander, who made no mistake.
Robertson continued the barrage 1:40 later when he took a feed from Kapanen and ripped his first NHL goal through Korpisalo from the left circle. The 18-year-old winger, who put up 55 goals in 46 games in the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20, is the third Leafs player to score in the post-season before age 19, joining Jack Hamilton (1943 and 1944) and Ted Kennedy (1944).
Leafs forward Jason Spezza, the oldest player on the team at 37, collected the puck for Robertson following the on-ice celebration.
Tortorella, who said his team “sucked” in Game 2, pulled Korpisalo in hopes of getting a spark, and got a response shortly after a Leafs’ penalty expired at 11:39 when Dubois solved Andersen.
Matthews, who had a goal and an assist in Game 2, came close to restoring Toronto’s three-goal lead later in the period, but his shot clanked off Merzlikins’ near post before Columbus pushed back hard in the third.
Toronto was designated as the “road” team Thursday, meaning the players wore their white uniforms inside an empty Scotiabank Arena, which still featured the franchise’s Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers hanging from the rafters.
As the second game of two games in the building, the Leafs were housed down the hall from their usual locker room in the reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors’ digs. The Raptors’ title banner also hung above the goal Toronto defended in the first and third periods.