The Toronto Maple Leafs made NHL history Friday by rallying from three goals down in the final four minutes of the third period to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in overtime of Game 4 in their Stanley Cup Qualifier series, avoiding elimination.
The fifth and deciding game is at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, on Sunday (8 p.m. ET;. NBCSN, SN, TVAS, FS-O).
The win by the Maple Leafs marked the first instance in NHL history of a team that faced elimination winning after trailing by three goals with less than four minutes remaining in the third period. Before Friday, the latest a team had ever rallied from three goals down to avoid elimination was Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1936, when Toronto scored the first of four unanswered goals against the Detroit Red Wings with 6:51 remaining in the third period.
The Maple Leafs became the third team in NHL history to win a postseason game after trailing by three goals in the final four minutes of the third period, joining the Edmonton Oilers in Game 3 of the 1997 Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Dallas Stars and the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of the 2017 Western Conference Second Round against the Oilers.
Toronto won after trailing by at least three goals at any point of a postseason game for the third time in its history. In addition to Game 3 of the 1936 Cup Final, they rallied to win Game 3 of the 1993 Western Conference Semifinals against Detroit. Mike Foligno, father of Columbus captain Nick Foligno, scored the overtime winner for Toronto in that game.
Auston Matthews scored a power-play goal at 13:10 of overtime Friday for the win, becoming the ninth different Maple Leafs player in the League’s modern era (since 1943-44) to score an overtime goal in a game when Toronto faced elimination. He’s the first since Travis Green in Game 6 of the 2003 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Maple Leafs pulled off their improbable comeback less than 24 hours after the Blue Jackets rallied from three goals down in the second period for a 4-3 overtime win in Game 3. Toronto became the first team in NHL history to overcome a deficit of at least three goals to win a game after surrendering a lead of at least three goals to lose its previous game (regular season or postseason).
The Maple Leafs-Blue Jackets series is the first in League history to feature a team overcoming a deficit of at least three goals to win in consecutive games, as well as the fifth postseason series in NHL history to feature multigoal comeback wins on consecutive days. The others: the 1950 Stanley Cup Final between the New York Rangers and Red Wings (Game 6 and Game 7), the 1987 Smythe Division Semifinals between the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets (Game 3 and Game 4), the 1989 Patrick Division Semifinals between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers (Game 1 and Game 2) and the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Flyers and Rangers (Game 1 and Game 2).