The Blue Jackets battled their asses off in Game 3.
So it was only fitting that their best player tonight, Pierre-Luc Dubois, capped off the first playoff hat trick in franchise history to win Game 3 after falling behind 3-0.
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Dubois was a menace. An absolute terror barreling through the Toronto defense all night long, doing the things John Tortorella often challenges him to do. He was a superstar on a night when the Blue Jackets needed one.
The comeback had layers to it. This game had it all.
Seth Jones found a loose puck on the right side and blasted a shot over Frederik Anderson to bring Columbus within a goal at 3-2 in the third period.
And it was on.
Then it was Pierre-Luc Dubois, on a spectacular individual effort, barreling through the Leafs defense and snapping a shot through Andersen's arm to tie the game in the third period. The Blue Jackets nearly broke through on a couple of chances late in regulation, too, notably a Boone Jenner steal from Auston Matthews that was stopped by Andersen as time ticked away.
After a dull first period, this game really kicked into gear in the second and third period.
The Blue Jackets waded their way through the first period and had a couple of chances, but couldn't get one through Andersen. That was the story of Game 3, and really, the story of this entire series. But Columbus found a way tonight, and it was a sight to behold.
"It was a team effort tonight," Dubois said. "Korpi played well enough to keep us in it. We just changed him to give us a little boost. Elvis made saves to give us a chance to come back. From there, it’s like our team, we gained confidence. And then the rest is history, I guess."
Toronto got chances, a couple go in. The Blue Jackets get chances and they miss the net, or they blow up altogether. When the margin for error is razor-thin to begin with, a team like Columbus has to make the most of the opportunities it creates.
Tonight, the Blue Jackets were stubborn and opportunistic.
Another major story was goaltending. Joonas Korpisalo had a tough night after two stellar performances in Games 1 and 2, but tonight was a bit of a struggle. After rookie Nick Robertson scored a questionable goal to make it 3-0, Toronto, Tortorella went to Elvis Merzlikins to change the momentum. Merzlikins stopped each of the 21 shots he faced, and helped turned the tide of this game when it looked like the Blue Jackets were dead in the water.
"We left Korpi out to dry there," Cam Atkinson said. "It's unfortunate, but Elvis stepped in and played great for us. That's what we have with those two goalies...either one can step in and win games.
"I just think that with Luc, if he wants to be a difference-maker, a game-changer, one of the best players I think in the league, he has all the capabilities, all the tools. Tonight he showed it. It’s not always going to go your way. It’s those moments where you capitalize on those opportunities. Big-time players step up in big-time crucial situations and sure enough, a hat trick, put us all on his back. It was good to see."
Jones, Atkinson and Zach Werenski each played over 30 minutes tonight, while Alexander Wennberg saw fewer than nine minutes of ice time. Tortorella shortened his bench – as he said he would – and went with the guys who were "on" tonight.
- Tonight marked the third time in franchise playoffs history that the club has won a game after trailing by three goals. CBJ also earned a 4-3 OT win over Pittsburgh on Apr. 23, 2014, and 4-3 win at Tampa Bay on Apr. 10, 2019.
- Columbus owns three of the last nine three-goal comeback wins among NHL teams dating back to the 2014 postseason.
- CBJ improved to 6-4 in overtime in the playoffs all-time (2–2 at home). The club went 1–1 after regulation in the 2019 playoffs (Apr. 25-27 at Boston).
- The club has a chance to close out the series with Toronto on Friday. It will mark the second time in franchise history CBJ will have a chance to close out an opponent in a playoff series (4-0 vs. Tampa Bay in 2019 ECQF).
- Columbus allowed a first period goal for the first time in the series.
- The Blue Jackets allowed their first power-play goal against in the series in the second period on Thursday. The club has now killed off 7-of-8 power-play attempts in the series (87.5 percent) after finishing 1-of-2 Thursday night.
- C Pierre-Luc Dubois scored three of the Blue Jackets’ four goals tonight for the franchise’s first hat trick in playoffs history. The center, who now has seven career playoffs goals, posted his second career hat trick overall after scoring a hat trick in the regular season on Mar. 29, 2018 at Calgary.
- G Elvis Merzlikins made his NHL playoffs debut, entering the game in the second period. He turned aside all 21 shots, including nine in overtime, to pick up the victory. He joins G Joonas Korpisalo as the only two players to win their playoff debuts in franchise history.
- RW Cam Atkinson registered assists on Dubois’ first two tallies for his team-high third assist and fourth point of the 2020 postseason. The second assist was his 13th of his playoffs career, breaking a tie with D Seth Jones for the most in franchise history.
- LW Alexandre Texier set up Dubois’ overtime winner for his first point of the 2020 postseason. He had 2-1-3 in eight playoff contests in 2019.
- D Seth Jones collected his first goal of the 2020 playoffs and fifth of his NHL postseason career.
- D Zach Werenski, who led NHL blueliners in goals with 20 during the regular season, collected his first point of the playoffs with an assist. It marked his eighth career assist in the playoffs.
- D David Savard picked up his second assist of the postseason with a third-period helper on the equalizer.
- D Markus Nutivaara made his 2020 postseason debut, finishing with a shot and blocked shot on 17:47 of ice time.
Dean Kukan (undisclosed) did not play in Game 3, with Markus Nutivaara taking his place on defense. No other injuries reported for Columbus.
An elimination Game 4 is on tap Friday night, 8 p.m. at Scotiabank Arena.