The Columbus Blue Jackets didn't play a perfect game, blowing a first period 2-0 lead, but they salvaged the game on Monday night when Gus Nyquist scored the club's first-ever OT penalty shot goal.
Here are the good, the bad, and the forward-looking plays that led to the win:
Shorthanded Goal Against
Perhaps the worst play of the whole night. The Blue Jackets had full possession on a power play leading 2-0 midway through the first period on the road. Things were good. Then Zach Werenski gave Gus Nyquist a difficult – albeit not impossible – pass to catch on his backhand. Nyquist was unable to handle the puck, and worse, he was unable to keep the puck from going the other way in transition. The replay at 0:27 (below) does a great job showing how quickly the play went from bad to worse.
As soon as Mitch Marner picks the puck up with speed heading towards the Blue Jackets' end (0:31), Werenski has to get himself back into the middle of the ice to defend the 2-on-1. He tries to force Marner into a tough pass on his backhand – a play that isn't universally easy – but Marner gets the puck through and Joonas Korpisalo is forced to go post-to-post. He's unable, and the puck ends up in the back of the net.
You'd like to see Werenski a) make a pass to Nyquist's forehand (though that's just as much on Nyquist for not catching it) or b) take away the pass on the 2-on-1.
Bad Body Position
With under a minute left in the first period, Auston Matthews knotted the game at 2-2 with a tap in goal. At the 3:48 mark, you can see that Markus Nutivaara is on the 'wrong' side of the puck against Matthews. Matthews has established body position like a rebounder in basketball, and Nutivaara is caught too far away to defend.
At 5:05, the Blue Jackets have full possession of the puck. Werenski sends a pass to Pierre-Luc Dubois that he's unable to chip out of the zone. Matthews sends the puck deep, hoping to get a 50/50 foot race for his team. At 5:12, Werenski has a difficult decision, and instead of clearing the puck out of danger, he and Boone Jenner find their wavelengths crossed. Jenner didn't expect Werenski to put the puck into space there, and Jenner finds himself on the defensive. With Dubois high and out of the play and Werenski chasing Matthews, there is a 2-on-1 in front of the net.
Matthews puts the puck into the traffic, and William Nylander is there to pounce on the loose puck. Simple math is to blame for this goal against, but it could have been prevented by simply getting the puck out of harm's way.
Riley Nash Shorthanded Goal
Nash does the heavy lifting on this beautiful shorthanded goal, the first of the season for the Blue Jackets. At the 0:11 mark, watch him angle and take away space from Marner, one of the best puck-handlers on the planet. A second later, Nash has effectively taken away his space and forced Marner to curl back into his zone but doesn't expect a perfect stick-lift from the veteran Nash. Nick Foligno gets the assist, and deservedly so, because if he's not there as a release valve/support option (0:14), it blows up.
Foligno draws Marner into a bad spot, then slides it back to Nash for a wide-open net. Beauty of a play.
Dubois Goes "Beast Mode"
Dubois has been utilizing his size more this year, as he's clearly comfortable (it's his third year, after all) playing against the best the NHL has to offer. Similar to the Matthews/Nutivaara goal in the "Bad" section above, Dubois puts Matthews in a bad spot by establishing body position on him (0:07). As Matthews is unable to prevent Dubois from taking it to the net, he's at a clear disadvantage. The finish is world-class, a far-corner tuck that beats Freddie Andersen to his post. But it all starts in the corners with Foligno and Dubois doing the grunt work and beating their opponent to a spot.
Werenski-Wennberg Power Play Connection
The Blue Jackets are going with a new wrinkle to their top power-play unit, taking Cam Atkinson off the right-side of that unit in place of Werenski. The rationale is two-fold. First, Atkinson has really struggled to score so far this year, and is probably lacking a bit of confidence. Second, having a left-handed shot on the right side allows for the one-timer. Enter Werenski, who does little on this play other than bomb a shot and then put the rebound (after the blocked shot) on net. The grunt work is done by Alexander Wennberg, who helps Nyquist win the loose puck (0:11), then does his job by going to the net, where he's eventually rewarded with a juicy rebound that he skillfully puts through the five-hole.
Team Speed Results In OT Winner
This is one of my favorite plays of the season, and it doesn't even end in a goal (well, technically it does with the penalty shot, but I digress). Werenski starts the play by masterfully defending Matthews, forcing him into a spin-around desperation play towards the cage. When Wennberg picks it up at 0:04, he realizes the Maple Leafs are gassed and 200 feet from their net. He makes a wager, one that ultimately pays off: he bets that Nyquist will beat Marner to the attacking crease. And he's right. At 0:08, you can already tell it's over. Marner is hooking Nyquist, doing anything he can to slow him down.
But by 0:10, Nyquist has pulled away, and the dexterous Wennberg is easily able to thread a saucer pass to Nyquist. Marner hooks him again – this time detected – and the play results in a penalty shot, one that Nyquist converts.