For a game that ended with a 5-4 score, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a much stronger control of the game than the score would indicate. This is what happens when the Columbus Blue Jackets score two goals in the last four minutes of the game, including one with less than a second remaining. Nick Ritchie scored his first goal and Auston Matthews scored two goals, because of course he did.
“The end result is a win,” said Auston Matthews. “But for us to let them come back, I feel like there’s definitely a lot of things that we’d like to clean up so that we continue to play like we did in the first two (periods). But, all in all, it’s nice to get back in the win column.”
“I think we’re happy with the result,” said Morgan Rielly. “The process could use some work, especially late.”
“In terms of how we play, and how we have played,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “I don’t think there was a lot to like in any of the periods. I’m kind of happy, frankly, that the third period catches up to us, because it probably should have.”
So, it’s not a great game for us,” Keefe continued. “But it’s a good result, obviously.”
1. Morgan Rielly can distribute the puck
This was the fourth time in Rielly’s career that he recorded four assists in a game and in his past 12 games, Morgan Rielly has produced 14 points (3 G, 11 A) and 40 shots on goal. He is tied for sixth among defencemen with 22 points (3 G, 19 A) for the season.
2. Auston Matthews scored again
For the seventh consecutive game, the Maple Leafs sniper found the back of the net. He has scored 10 goals in those seven games, giving him 17 goals in 24 games this season. Leon Draisaitl leads the league with 21 goals and it does not seem to be a question of whether Matthews will catch him. It’s only a question of whether Matthews catches him in 2021.
3. Kristians Rubins and Alex Steeves make their NHL debuts
Both rookies performed admirably, even though they were on the ice for the only 5-on-5 goal that Columbus scored.
Rubins used his size to play the body, leading the Maple Leafs with four hits and he appeared to be capable in his third pair defence role.
Steeves was effective in his fourth line role and generated three shots on goal in just nine minutes of ice time.
“I thought those guys gave us good shifts, I liked their game,” said Keefe. “I’m going to have to watch some of the details back, but in terms of the confidence that they both showed with the puck, I liked that.”
4. Nick Ritchie scored
After scoring a career-high 15 goals in 56 games for Boston last season, the big winger has had trouble making his mark offensively in Toronto. He did have five assists in the previous seven games going into Tuesday’s matchup with the Blue Jackets, but Ritchie finally found the back of the net for his first goal as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
“He’s been all over it and he’s had plenty of chances,” said Auston Matthews. “He’s just been a little bit snakebit. That was a huge goal for him and it’s going to get him going even more now.”
Nick Ritchie is hardly the only notable who was still seeking his first goal. Ritchie scored on his 41st shot on goal of the season. Some others that have yet to score a goal this season.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago (45 SOG)
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg (43 SOG)
Zach Parise, N.Y. Islanders (36 SOG)
Joonas Donskoi, Seattle (33 SOG)
5. Breaking down the Nick Ritchie goal
As Toronto enters the Columbus zone, it is a 3-on-3 situation, not especially dangerous.
The puck goes to the corner and still, Columbus is in okay position, though Gabriel Carlsson has lost his balance and possibly his stick under the forecheck from David Kampf and Ondrej Kase. Nick Ritchie is coming around the net, having come in on the left wing. Gustav Nyquist is still in defensive position above the goalline.
This is the pivotal moment. As Ritchie comes from behind the net, he pivots off of Nyquist, who decides to go behind the net to pursue Kase, who is already battling Blue Jackets defenceman Adam Boqvist for the puck behind the net.
With Nyquist behind the net, Ritchie pivots and is alone in front of Elvis Merzlikins. Kase, as is often the case, wins the board battle and passes to Ritchie. It comes to his backhand but since no Blue Jackets are within striking distance, he has the time to go backhand to forehand before beating Merzlikins. Nick Ritchie’s first goal on his 41st shot on goal of the season.
CBJ 3.29 TOR 3.08
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