TORONTO — Joonas Korpisalo stopped 33 shots and the Columbus Blue Jackets advanced to the first round of the NHL playoffs with a 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in a decisive Game 5 on Sunday night.
Zach Werenski‘s floater from the left point in the first period held up as the deciding goal. Liam Foudy sneaked in a shot from a bad angle with 8:20 remaining, and captain Nick Foligno sealed the victory by scoring into an open net with 23 seconds remaining.
Werenski played despite not being able to finish Game 4 with an apparent upper body injury. And Korpisalo posted his second shutout of the series, while getting the start after Elvis Merzlikins was ruled to be unfit to play.
The Maple Leafs ran out of offense with captain John Tavares misfiring by hitting the post while facing a wide-open side in the first period. And Toronto ran out of remarkable comebacks two nights after rallying from a three-goal third-period deficit in a 4-3 overtime win in Game 4.
Frederik Andersen stopped 19 shots, and was caught cheating to his right in giving up Foudy’s goal from a bad angle.
Columbus, which rallied from a three-goal second period deficit in a 4-3 OT win in Game 3, advances to the first round, where it will meet the second-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of last year’s first-round series. The Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy-winning Lightning in four games in their first playoff series victory in franchise history.
The Lightning are suddenly facing injury issues. Star defenseman Victor Hedman went down with an apparent right ankle injury in a 4-1 robin-robin-closing loss to Philadelphia on Saturday, and captain Steven Stamkos has yet to play since sustaining a lower body injury last month. It’s unclear if either will be available for Game 1, which has yet to be scheduled.
So much for hometown advantage to the NHL’s two hub-city teams with both the Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers eliminated in the preliminary round.
The Maple Leafs continued their one-and-done playoff woes in making their fourth straight postseason appearance, and fifth since the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Toronto has not advanced since knocking off Ottawa in Game 7 of a 2004 first-round series.
Werenski opened the scoring 6:29 in when he floated a shot from the left point. The puck appeared to deflect off of Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, who was jostling in front with Boone Jenner, and went in over Andersen’s shoulder.
Tavares squandered an opportunity to tie the game with 3:45 left in the opening period. Set up by Morgan Rielly in the right circle, and with Korpisalo out of position at the left post, Tavares rushed a shot that struck the inside of the right post and caromed back through the crease.
Tavares was set up in the same spot five minutes into the second period, only to this time be denied by Korpisalo, who got a piece of the puck with his blocker.
Foudy scored his first career playoff goal by tracking down a dump in along the right boards near the goal line. He skated toward the net and sneaked a shot in through Andersen’s legs.
Toronto might have ranked third in the NHL in averaging 3.39 goals per game in the regular season, but the Leafs were foiled by a Columbus opponent that finished tied for second in allowing just 2.57 goals per outing.
The Blue Jackets placed a blanket on Toronto’s high-octane offense in limiting it to just 19 shots through two periods and 33 overall, two nights after allowing 53.
Korpisalo opened the series with a 28-save shutout before allowing five goals on the next 53 shots in being pulled midway through the second period of Columbus’ 4-3 OT win in Game 3. After making 21 saves to blank the Leafs in a backup role in Game 3, Merzlikins gave up four goals on 53 shots Friday in the only preliminary-round series to be settled in five games.