The Habs played themselves into a 3-1 series deficit with a pair of tough outings earlier in the week but managed to pick up two critical overtime victories to keep their series against Toronto alive with Game 7 going on Monday.
The Week That Was
May 24: Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 – After the series opener was a close game dominated by goaltending, it was Toronto that came out on the winning end of this one. All the scoring happened in the second period, also known as the period that the Habs have struggled in mightily throughout the series. Nick Suzuki’s goal was sandwiched by tallies from William Nylander and T.J. Brodie and despite Montreal outshooting the Maple Leafs 15-2 in the third, they couldn’t get the crucial tying goal past Jack Campbell.
May 25: Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0 – Montreal wasn’t able to carry much over from the third period the night before and quite frankly, they did not play well. The dreaded second period was once again their downfall as they allowed three goals and while they again outshot Toronto in the third, the quality of the chances wasn’t particularly strong. Alex Galchenyuk capped off a tough night for the Habs with his first goal of the series late in the final frame.
May 27: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) – Joel Armia can go quiet in the offensive zone for long stretches and then magically take over a game out of nowhere. After being quiet through four games, he was dominant in the opening period, scoring a pair of goals. Jesperi Kotkaniemi added one in the second and it looked like Montreal was heading for a safe victory. Nope. Toronto got one back in the second and added two off the stick of Jake Muzzin in the third to send it to overtime. It was a short-lived extra period, however, as a Galchenyuk giveaway in Montreal’s end sprung Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield on a rare 2-on-0 break, Suzuki took the return feed from Caufield and slipped it past Campbell to keep the series alive.
May 29: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT) – With zeroes on the scoreboard for both sides through 40 minutes, it felt like the third period was going to be overtime where the next goal would win. Corey Perry ultimately got that goal on a rare power play tally, one that Toronto unsuccessfully challenged for goalie interference for, extending the advantage. Mitch Marner’s puck over glass penalty gave them a two-man advantage that Tyler Toffoli cashed in on and again, it looked like Montreal was heading for a safe victory. Nope (again). Shots from Jason Spezza and T.J. Brodie directed off Jeff Petry past Carey Price and again the game went to overtime. The Maple Leafs were dominant in the extra session but the Habs capitalized on a Travis Dermott defensive zone turnover with Paul Byron setting up Kotkaniemi whose shot went off Zach Bogosian and in to set up Game 7.
Goals: Jesperi Kotkaniemi (3)
Assists: Tyler Toffoli (3)
Points: Armia/Toffoli (4)
+/-: Joel Armia (+3)
PIMS: Shea Weber (14)
Shots: Josh Anderson (18)
News And Notes
– The Habs got some good and bad news on the injury front. Artturi Lehkonen suffered an undisclosed injury early in Game 3 and hasn’t played since although he has skated with a non-contact jersey. Jon Merrill is expected to miss a week or two with an undisclosed injury of his own. Meanwhile, Jake Evans returned in Game 6 which sent Tomas Tatar to the press box.
– Montreal became the first team in NHL history to make it to Game 6 of a series without getting a point from a defenceman.
– Montreal also became the first team in NHL history to surrender multi-goal, third-period leads in consecutive games while facing elimination and win each of them.
Last Game’s Lines:
Toffoli – Suzuki – Caufield
Evans – Danault – Gallagher
Byron – Kotkaniemi – Anderson
Armia – Staal – Perry
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Gustafsson – Kulak (though they never played together)
The Week Ahead
This can go a couple of ways. We know there’s Game 7 on Monday and if Montreal loses, that’s it. However, if they win, the schedule for the North Division Final has been released with games on Wednesday and Friday before a back-to-back set on Sunday and Monday for whoever wins Game 7.
One of the narratives through the series has been how some of Toronto’s top scorers aren’t scoring. That’s very much true and Montreal deserves some credit for largely shutting them down. But what isn’t getting enough attention is that the same can be said for Montreal’s top scorers. The Habs had six players during the regular season that had at least 10 goals. Those six have combined for all of four goals through six games (two for Suzuki, one for Toffoli and Anderson, 0 for Gallagher, Petry, and Tatar). Again, give Toronto some credit for taking big chunks of Montreal’s attack out of the picture but that’s quite a poor showing so far. Now would be as good a time as any for some of those Canadiens to make their presence felt.