COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets played with a man advantage over Toronto for nearly seven minutes in the third period Wednesday night, thanks to a quirky mistake by the Maples Leafs. But the Blue Jackets couldn't use it to their advantage.
Toronto snuffed out the five-minute power play and then remained a man down for nearly two more minutes because no one had gone to the box to serve the time. The penalty-kill seemed to flatten the Blue Jackets, and the Maple Leafs cruised to a 5-2 victory.
"I think that took a lot of momentum away from them," said Nazem Kadri, who had a goal and an assist for Toronto. "They started the second and third periods off pretty well, and that (penalty kill) just came up huge for us."
William Nylander and Leo Komarov had a goal and an assist each, and Auston Matthews and Nikita Zaitsev also tallied for Toronto. Frederik Andersen had 32 saves as the Maple Leafs stayed in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.
David Savard and Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, which lost for the first time in the last five games. Backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stopped 27 shots. The Blue Jackets stayed in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind leader Washington and one behind Pittsburgh. They play the Capitals in Washington on Thursday night.
The Blue Jackets fought back from a 2-0 first-period deficit to tie the game in the second, but were held scoreless in the final period, despite the strange extended power-play situation.
"There's no excuse," Saad said. "We've got to create more chances, more traffic. For us, that's kind of a key moment in the game where even if we don't score a goal we have to create some momentum off that, and they just outworked us."
Toronto struck first with 8:55 left in the opening period when the Blue Jackets' Zach Werenski turned the puck over deep in the defensive zone. Kadri collected it and chipped to Komarov, who beat Korpisalo from the doorstep.
The Maple Leafs took a 2-0 lead less than two minutes later on a power play when 19-year-old rookie Matthews, in the right place at the right time for a rebound, tucked in his team-leading 33rd goal of the season.
Columbus closed it to 2-1 just 43 seconds into the second period. Savard buried a slap shot from the right dot off a sweet pass from Brandon Dubinsky from behind the goal line. The Blue Jackets tied it 6:58 into the period when Saad deflected in a Werenski shot from the left point.
Toronto answered 6:37 left in the period, making it 3-2 on a goal by another of its sensational rookies. Nylander, after being levelled by Savard and recovering, caught up with Tyler Bozak's pass, found himself on a breakaway and wristed a shot in off the top bar.
A hard-hitting game was punctuated by Toronto's Roman Polak, who unloaded a hit that plastered Oliver Bjorkstrand's face into the glass, earning the big defenceman a five-minute major penalty. Bjorkstrand crumpled to the ice and looked as if he may have been unconscious briefly before being helped off. There was no immediate word on how seriously he was injured.
But Polak left the ice and no one else went to the box for penalty, so Toronto had to keep playing a man down until the next stoppage of play.
Kadri swept in an insurance goal off a rebound with 4:14 left in the game, and Zaitsev got an empty-netter.
NOTES: Nylander has three goals and six assists in a career-high nine-game point streak. ... Columbus C Alexander Wennberg returned the lineup after missing Sunday's game with a stiff neck. ... Columbus signed forwards Markus Hannikainen and Lukas Sedlak, and D Scott Harrington to two-year contract extensions this week. All would have been restricted free agents this summer.
Toronto: Home against New Jersey on Thursday.
Columbus: At Washington on Thursday to finish the 17th of a league-high 19 back-to-backs.
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Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press