All good things come to an end. This classic saying was a theme on this night, as the game eventually came to an end (yes, it was that entertaining), so too did the 14-game winning streak against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Montreal Canadiens likely deserved better on this night, but their inability to finish offensive opportunities reared its ugly head in the third, leading to the 4-3 Maple Leafs victory in overtime. Fortunately for the Canadiens, they walk away from another solid effort with a point in the standings tonight.
This contest started with some excellent action as both teams looked like they wanted to have a strong start. Montreal got the better of the exchange as Jonathan Drouin delayed the attack after entering the Leafs zone and found a streaking Jeff Petry who scored his first of the season only two minutes in. The goal livened the Bell Centre and the players as most of the opening half of the period was spent in the Toronto zone. After a Leafs 2-on-1 which forced Carey Price to execute an excellent save, Drouin won the ensuing faceoff (which didn’t happen often in this one), but the puck bounced off Artturi Lehkonen’s skate onto James van Riemsdyk’s stick who then had his shot deflect off Petry and past Carey Price. As has been far too common to start the season, the goals against came in bunches as moments later, Auston Matthews picked off a soft Jordie Benn clearing attempt and rocketed a quick wrister into the net. Montreal would be playing from behind yet again. Both teams would then exchange power plays, with Montreal killing their two minutes quite effectively, and Alex Galchenyuk broke in 2-on-1 and ripped one home for Montreal’s first power play goal of the season. All even after an exciting first period.
The second started much like the first until Brandon Davidson was forced to take a holding penalty to keep William Nylander from getting in alone on Price. Montreal passed their second penalty killing test and once again really kept the Leafs away from ever getting established in the zone. As the second half of the period started, Matthews thought he had his second of the night, but the official immediately waved it off due to a high stick. An important play once again occurred on the ensuing faceoff, as the puck was fired into the Leafs zone, Lehkonen got in on a good forecheck, caused a turnover to Alzner, who made a slick slap pass to Drouin’s stick. Drouin tipped it home and Montreal had their second lead of the night.
It would once again be a short-lived lead as Toronto fired back shortly thereafter. With the Leafs all over the crease, soft coverage by Alzner allowed Patrick Marleau to get close enough to tuck the puck through a sprawled Price. The Marleau goal really gave the Leafs some life as most of the rest of the period was spent in the defensive zone. Luckily for Montreal, Tyler Bozak took a penalty with a little over two minutes to play and Montreal spent the rest of the period on a man-advantage that did not generate any scoring chances, sending the teams to the locker still tied after two periods.
After the offensive barrage that was the first 40 minutes, the third period started rather tentatively. What didn’t help matters was that most offensive looking plays were quickly aborted with pucks skipping over sticks. The timing slowly returned and by the time the second half of the period arrived, the game had found its pace and aggressiveness anew. Both teams were denied very good chances, and both teams had some extended zone time. Finally, neither teams could do much offensively in the period, meaning that this game needed a little 3-on-3.
The extra frame proposition is one that is advantage Maple Leafs with their plethora of young scoring talent. This was shown very quickly on this night as Paul Byron broke in with Tomas Plekanec but there was simply no finish on this rush. The play immediately returned to the Montreal zone with Nylander and Matthews outskating every one of Plekanec, Byron, and Petry. Nylander found Matthews who expectedly made no mistake and ended the winless streak for the Maple Leafs.
Observations on the Night
1 – Defensively Solid
Mark tonight as Jeff Petry’s best game of this short season… by a mile. Alzner was good too, as was the top pair (Victor Mete continues to demonstrate his belongs on the top pair). Brandon Davidson continued his streak of good play over the last three games. What to do then with the pending return of David Schlemko? Considering the last two games and how this one started, Jordie Benn should be the logical candidate to watch the next game. The issue with this idea? Well, after a horrendous start to his season, Benn also played his best 40 minutes of the season in the second and third periods. The negativity around this group of defenders is slowly quieting down, and now it becomes a good problem as a player who played well tonight might end up watching the next one.
2 – Intelligent Lehkonen
It appears that any line that is given #62 as their right winger suddenly finds most of their shifts in the offensive zone. This is no accident as Artturi Lehkonen has really started the season on the same beat that he finished last season. His forecheck is quick and so positionally intelligent that he causes a series of turnovers each game. It hasn’t translated to many points so far for the young sophomore, but that would appear to be only a matter of time if he remains on the top line.
3 – Galchenyuk on the wrong wing?
I proposed last week that Galchenyuk should play the right wing on the PP, and said the same thing about his 5-on-5 position (if he wasn’t played at centre) over the summer. Watching his goal on this night brought this back to mind as his shot was a rocket and he’d be enabled to use it on a more regular basis playing the right wing. This would also create a far more interesting scenario offensively as the Canadiens could then deploy Pacioretty-Lehkonen and Hudon-Galchenyuk as their top winger pairs, with Byron-Gallagher filling out the third pair (and this is great considering they seemed to have some chemistry together on Saturday night).