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Blue Jackets shut out Maple Leafs 2-0 in return to the ice

The game was scoreless going into the third period when Cam Atkinson broke the tie with a goal two minutes into the period.
Credit: Associated Press
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) celebrates his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets waited months to return to the rink and continue their quest for the Stanley Cup. Tonight, in their return to the ice, they made a step in the right direction.

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 did not allow a Toronto shot in the last seven minutes of the game.

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.

Alexander Wennberg sealed the win with an empty-netter with 19 seconds remaining.

Andersen had 34 saves for the Maple Leafs.

The teams opened their series as part of the league’s 24-team relaunch to its pandemic-halted 2019-20 season. The game was played at empty Scotiabank Arena in the NHL’s return following a 142-day absence.

The Leafs are trying to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They are coming off consecutive first-round, seven-game playoff losses to the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs were eighth in the Eastern Conference at 36-25-9, while the Blue Jackets were ninth with a 33-22-3 mark.