Defenceman Rielly has four assists as Maple Leafs hold on to beat Blue Jackets 5-4


Published December 7, 2021 at 9:52 pm

TORONTO — Defenceman Morgan Rielly set up four goals as the Toronto Maple Leafs returned home and hung on for a 5-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday to end a two-game skid.

Reilly set up power-play goals from William Nylander and captain John Tavares and two more from Auston Matthews. His second goal arrived seven seconds after Tavares put the Maple Leafs in front 4-1 late in the second period.

Nick Ritchie scored his first goal in his 27th game in a Maple Leafs’ sweater late in the first period before 18,793 at Scotiabank Arena.

The Maple Leafs were playing missing forward Mitch Marner, who was hurt in a collision in practice with teammate Jake Muzzin last Friday and expects to miss the next three-to-four weeks. 

Marner was moved to the injured reserve list alongside defenceman Rasmus Sandin on Tuesday.

Marner was absent in weekend losses in Minnesota and Winnipeg. On Sunday, Sandin was injured after a knee-on-knee collision with Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk.

The Leafs (18-7-2) also performed without forward Jason Spezza (suspension) and defencemen Travis Dermott (shoulder).

Spezza was levied a six-game banishment for his knee to the head of Pionk after his incident with Sandin.

The Maple Leafs promoted defencemen Alex Biega and Kristians Rubins and right-wing Alex Steeves to fill the roster vacancies. The 21-year-old Steeves of Bedford, N.H., and Rubins, a 23-year-old from Latvia, made their NHL debuts. They were free-agent signings last summer.

Nylander provided Toronto with an early 1-0 lead on the power play, resulting from swift puck movement from Rielly to Matthews to Nylander.

Matthews converted a stylistic through-the-legs pass from linemate Michael Bunting and Ritchie scored 1:22 later for a 3-0 lead.

Matthews leads the Maple Leafs with 17 goals in 2021-22. He almost notched a hat trick but failed to tap home a pass from linemate Wayne Simmonds midway through the final period.

Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell had his shutout bid stopped with a rebound power-play goal from Columbus forward Oliver Bjorkstrand, seconds after Campbell made a fantastic glove-hand save on Bjorkstrand from in close.

Bjorkstrand scored again early in the third period. Sean Kurlay added a goal off the rush with 3:35 remaining and Max Domi scored just before the final buzzer.

Campbell registered his league-leading 14th win. The Maple Leafs outshot the visitors 40-32.

The Blue Jackets (13-11-0) were without forward Patrik Laine, out with an oblique strain. They have now dropped five of their last six outings.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2021.

Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press

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