The Montreal Canadiens were looking to get back on track when they hosted their archrivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, on Saturday night. There was just one change made to the lineup as defenceman Mike Reilly drew in for Brett Kulak. The Habs squandered an early 2-0 lead but came back strong in the third period and finished with a nice 5-2 victory.
The Habs came out flying in the first period. They were overwhelming the Leafs with their strong forecheck and speedy attack. The Habs heavily out-chanced and outshot the Leafs through much of the first period.
Montreal finally broke through eight minutes into the period. An offensive zone faceoff was won by Phillip Danault. Mike Reilly fired a shot from the point, Tomas Tatar picked up the rebound and sent a no-look pass to Brendan Gallagher, who slid the puck around Michael Hutchinson’s pad and into the net for the lead.
The goal seemed to inject even more energy into the Habs attack and they picked up the speed even more. Their lead was doubled with seven minutes to go in the first. Joel Armia forced the Leafs defenceman to turn it over at the Habs’ blue line. Jonathan Drouin blew the zone and received a perfect pass from Armia. Drouin came in with speed, faked a shot on the forehand, and dragged the puck in on his backhand and put it in.
Shortly after the goal, the Habs were pressuring the Leafs again. Reilly picked up the puck in the offensive zone and started carrying it around, but he was held and drew a penalty. The Canadiens kept the pressure up for almost a full minute before the penalty was called.
On the power play, the Habs possessed the puck for a large amount of the two minutes but they were mostly held to the perimeter and could not really direct anything towards the net.
With just sixteen seconds left the Leafs cut into the Habs lead. Jake Muzzin took a cross-ice pass from Mitch Marner and shot it before Price could get across the crease. Giving up a goal that late in a period is frustrating but the Habs still had a great period while heavily outshooting the Leafs.
The Leafs had more life in the second period after the late goal and they were able to tie the game early in the period. There was a scramble in front of the Habs net, and Price could not find the puck as Andreas Johnsson slid it past him to tie the game.
The Habs were starting to get outplayed a little more as the period went on. Aside from a couple of goalposts hit by Gallagher and Cale Fleury, there were not many chances for the Habs. However, at the other end of the ice Price was starting to get locked in and was seeing all of the Leafs’ shots really well.
With four minutes left in the period, Drouin was called for a weak slashing penalty. Montreal’s much-maligned penalty kill looked much better on this attempt and the held the Toronto power play off of the scoresheet.
With one minute left in the second, the Leafs were called for boarding on Max Domi, sending the Habs to their second power play. Montreal couldn’t score in the first minute, and they had one minute left to start the third.
The Habs got off to an electrifying start in the third. The opening faceoff was pushed forward. Armia outmuscled the defenders, came in alone, and fired a perfect shot in the top right corner to regain the Habs’ lead. The play took all of seven seconds.
This goal gave some much-needed momentum to the Habs to start the third, and they were starting to play more like they did in the first.
Seven minutes later, Drouin scored his second of the game to double the Habs lead. He took a loose puck at the defensive blue line, took off at lightning speed, and fired a shot top corner for his second breakaway goal of the game.
The fun continued for the Habs later in the period when Nate Thompson carried the puck down the left wing. He fired a perfect pass through the Leafs defenceman and onto the stick of Nick Suzuki, who tapped it home for a 5-2 lead.
The Habs put it on cruise control for the remainder of the period and they left the building with a neat and tidy 5-2 win. This is an important win for the Canadiens as they try to get back on track, and build some momentum heading out to a West Coast road trip.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Joel Armia
Armia was a force in this game. His strong forechecking and puck possession is a great complement for the skill of Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi. He forced the turnover that led to the second Habs’ goal, and he also made a great individual effort to score the game-winning goal in the third period.
Stats: 1G (GWG), 1A, +1, 4 SOG, 16:51 TOI
Second Star – Jonathan Drouin
Jonathan Drouin was flying all over the ice. He showed his great speed with two excellent breakaway goals. He also could have had another goal or two with strong offensive zone play throughout the night. He has continued to silence his critics with an impressive start to the season.
Stats: 2G, +1, 4 SOG, 18:50 TOI
Third Star – Cale Fleury
After being a healthy scratch for several games earlier in the year, Fleury has shown his potential lately. He was very solid in his own zone and picked his spots to go for offensive opportunities. He fired a nice shot off the post and came down low for several other offensive opportunities in this game.
Stats: 1 hit, 1 block, 13:48 TOI
Honourable Mention – Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher scored the goal to get things going for the Habs tonight. He also had many other chances including a nice shot off the crossbar on the rush. He, along with Danault and Gallagher, was essential in shutting down the Leafs’ top line for much of the night.
Stats: 1G, +1, 4 SOG, 19:17 TOI