Korpisalo leads Blue Jackets to shutout win
TORONTO — Joonas Korpisalo stopped 28 shots in his first playoff start, Cam Atkinson scored early in the third period and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Sunday night in Game 1 of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
Korpisalo, who got the nod over rookie Elvis Merzlikins, whom he battled during the short summer training camp, neutralized one of the NHL’s highest scoring teams. He got a lot of help from a smothering Blue Jackets defense, which blocked 18 shots and did not allow a Toronto shot in the last seven minutes of the game.
“I’m pretty confident from the get-go today, and I think the boys played really good in front of me, battling for me to see the puck,” said Korpisalo, who learned on Saturday that was getting start.
His biggest stop may have been a spectacular glove save of a wide-open Auston Matthews shot at the end of the second period.
“Nothing we didn’t expect,” defenseman Seth Jones said. “Korpi is a competitor, he’s a hell of a goalie and he made massive saves when we needed them. Most tonight kept us in it. They had some chances when it was 0-0, three or four of them right from the slot.”
After Korpisalo matched Toronto veteran goalie Frederik Andersen through the first two periods, Atkinson’s snap shot from the top of the right circle went under Andersen’s right arm 1:05 into the third.
“The initial release looked to be a little bit higher, and I reacted up and obviously I made a mistake and it cost us a goal and eventually the game,” Andersen said.
Columbus coach John Tortorella said it was a timely one for Atkinson, who missed time in February and March with an ankle injury.
“For a goal-scorer that has struggled a little bit as we’ve gone through, hopefully it will loosen him up a little bit,” Tortorella said.
Alexander Wennberg sealed the win with an empty-netter with 19 seconds remaining.
Andersen had 34 saves for the Maple Leafs.