COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Momentum has come and gone for the Blue Jackets during their first four games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During Game 4 on Friday, momentum was on CBJ’s side — until it wasn’t.
“We thought we played a good game. We pissed it away in a couple of bad plays and just within a couple of minutes,” CBJ head coach John Tortorella said.
Columbus scored the first three goals of the game giving them seven straight goals going back to their Game 3 overtime win in which the Jackets erased a three-goal deficit to win 4-3.
But it was the Leafs who came back from three goals down on Friday, scoring all three in the last four minutes of the third period to force overtime.
Auston Matthews completed the momentum swing by scoring the game-winning goal 10 seconds into a Leafs’ power play to force a decisive Game 5.
“We’re fine. We feel we have the momentum. No matter what happened there [in Game 4],” Tortorella said. “We’re good and ready to play.”
Tortorella said Zach Werenski, who missed the end of Game 4 with an injury, will be back in the lineup in Game 5 as will Ryan Murray who missed the previous game with an undisclosed injury.
Also coming back into the Blue Jackets’ lineup is goalkeeper Joonas Korpisalo. He started the first three games for CBJ but was taken out midway through the 2nd period in Game 3 when CBJ was down 3-0.
Elvis Merlikins came into that game and made 21 saves without allowing a goal to help complete CBJ’s comeback win.
The rookie continued his hot streak in Game 4 saving 36 straight shots without allowing a goal, but proceeded to give up three straight in the last four minutes, including two goals in which the Leafs had an extra attacker with an empty net.
“Whatever goalie’s in the net we’re happy and we’re comfortable and confident with that and I know [Korpisalo] will have a great game tonight,” CBJ defenseman Seth Jones said. “I feel great about our group and resiliency as a group.”
Right winger Oliver Bjorkstrand echoed Jones’ sentiment about the team feeling confident despite the back-breaking loss in Game 4.
“I think we’re comfortable in these situations,” Bjorkstrand said. “As a group, we know what to do. I have no doubt we’re going to perform tonight.”
The winner of this game, which is set for 8 p.m., will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Jackets beat the No. 1 ranked Lightning in 2019 giving CBJ its first playoff series win in franchise history.