The Blue Jackets rode the first ever postseason hat trick in team history and the momentum from a second-period goalie change to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs in Game Three of their Eastern Conference Qualifying Round playoff series.
For 22-year-old center Pierre-Dubois, it was just the second hat trick of his career. For 26-year-old netminder Elvis Merzlikins, it was his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.
“I’m not sure what’s best: total experience in playoff hockey or just youth and dumbness,” said head coach John Tortorella. “We’ve got a lot of young kids on this team. I don’t think anyone is afraid of this situation at all.”
That fearlesses was needed on a night when Toronto grabbed a 3-0 second-period lead before Merzlikins entered the game for Joonas Korpisalo, who has a .938 save percentage and has made 76 stops this postseason. Merzlikins would end the night with 21 stops of his own.
“It certainly wasn’t due to Korpi’s play,” said Tortorella. “It gave us a chance to catch our breath. I think that was one of the biggest things we needed to do is just stop and slow it down a little bit, because it was getting away from us.”
Not long after the switch, Dubois got Columbus on the board with the first of his goals. Seth Jones added a third-period tally, before Dubois would notch the game-tying and game-winning scores. The latter of these came with just 1:36 remaining.
Two nights prior, Tortorella and Dubois were seen having a heated exchange on the bench, but Dubois insisted this didn’t add to his determination. .
“Stuff like that happens,” he said. “Last game, obviously, I want to forget about that one, push that one under the rug. Coming into today, if you’re lacking motivation, I don’t think you’re in the right spot or the right sport.”
Columbus now owns three of the last nine postseason comeback wins of three goals or more dating back to the 2014, and they can close out the best-of-five series with a win Friday night.
The puck drops at 8.
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