Sports David Rittich makes 34 saves, Flames blank Maple Leafs 3-0 for much-needed win
'Misunderstood' Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT
TORONTO — William Nylander is used to the outside noise swirling around him in hockey's biggest market. And he knows some of the criticism is justified. Breathtakingly skilled, Nylander can make the absurd look easy one moment, and appear disinterested and disengaged the next. The Maple Leafs' enigmatic winger demonstrated what he's capable of Wednesday with two goals that couldn't have been more different. Nylander tied the game late in regulation on a chaotic scramble in tight before adding the winner on a graceful drive to the net at 1:06 into overtime as Toronto defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1. "Nice to be able to score," he said. "Finally.
TORONTO — David Rittich's celebration at the final buzzer could be heard throughout an empty Scotiabank Arena.
After a miserable stretch that culminated with an embarrassing loss to his team's biggest rival over the weekend, Calgary's surprise starter knew just how important Monday's result was for a group seemingly teetering on the brink.
Rittich made 34 saves for his first victory of the season, Matthew Tkachuk and Sean Monahan snapped long goal droughts and added an assist each, and the Flames shut out the NHL-leading Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0.
"I was just happy," Rittich said of his delight-filled howl. "Huge win. We needed something like that."
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames
OTTAWA — Matt Murray and the Ottawa Senators have their longest win streak of the season. Murray stopped 29 shots while Drake Batherson extended his goal streak to four games as Ottawa earned a 6-1 decision over the Calgary Flames on Thursday. The win was the Senators' third straight as they improved to 5-2-0 in the last seven contests. "I think we're starting to build, I think we're recognizing what it takes to win on any given night and how difficult it really is," Murray said. "I think we're starting to do the little things right the majority of the time and that's huge in this league.
Sam Bennett also scored for Calgary (9-9-1), which came in desperate having dropped four of five in regulation, and had been outscored a combined 14-3 in three consecutive defeats, accented by Saturday's embarrassing 7-1 throttling by Connor McDavid's Oilers in Edmonton.
"You can't always control how you lose," Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. "You can prepare to win again, and your response to something like we saw the other night was important.
"We had a good response."
Rittich learned following the morning skate he would get the call in place of No. 1 goalie Jacob Markstrom, who's day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
"David was outstanding," added Ward, whose team faces the Leafs again on Wednesday. "We've seen that from him before."
Connor McDavid scores hat-trick, adds two assists as Oilers batter Flames 7-1
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers superstar captain continues to amaze and get the better of his team's provincial rival. Connor McDavid scored a natural hat-trick and added two assists in a 7-1 Edmonton Oilers win over the Calgary Flames at Rogers Place in Edmonton. McDavid assisted on his team's first two goals before scoring Edmonton's next three. The best of his three goals came on a two-on-one in the second period where he sped into the zone and acted as if he was looking for a pass before firing the puck into the net.
Rasmus Andersson added two assists as the Flames held the league's No. 1 power play in check on its seven tries, including a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:36 in the second period.
"Big stage for us," said Tkachuk, who scored the 100th goal of his NHL career and first in 10 games. "We were ready to go from puck drop."
The Flames didn't want to put too much emphasis on one result, but this one meant more than just any win after getting blown out on national television and having the character of their core players questioned.
"It's always good when you get rewarded for your effort," Ward said. "The emotion and the smiles and everything else, there is a certain amount of relief."
Michael Hutchinson, who like Rittich was announced as his club's starter shortly before warmups with Frederik Andersen out with a lower-body injury, stopped 30 shots for Toronto (14-4-2).
Goaltending, however, was not the issue for the Leafs as they fell on this night.
Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry heating up this season
The last time the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs met in the playoffs was 1979. That was six years before Canadiens captain Shea Weber was born. Coach Claude Julien was a 19-year-old defenceman with the junior Windsor Spitfires when the Canadiens swept the Leafs in their 1979 playoff quarter-final series en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens and Leafs have met 15 times in total in the playoffs, including five Stanley Cup finals. The Leafs beat the Canadiens in the 1947, 1951 and 1967 Cup finals, while the Canadiens won in 1959 and 1960.
"It was clear that the other team had a little more urgency," Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "(I) thought our team played like one that was expecting things to go bad.
"This is our 20th game of the season so I think we've shown that this is not us."
Auston Matthews, who leads the NHL with 18 goals and was named the league's first star of the week, saw his 16-game point streak come to an end — two short of the franchise record held by Darryl Sittler and Ed Olczyk.
"We didn't really have a lot of jump to start," he said. "They definitely came out with a purpose.
"We didn't really have any pushback."
Minus top-6 forwards Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman due to injury, Keefe loaded up Toronto's first line with struggling captain John Tavares joining Matthews and Mitch Marner, but his team was of sorts from the get-go against an opponent embarking on a crucial stretch in the pandemic-truncated schedule.
The Leafs were also without top-4 blue-liner Jake Muzzin, who's set to miss time with a broken bone in his face. Andersen, meanwhile, is listed as day-to-day.
"It's all I got for you," Keefe said of his No. 1 netminder, who joined backup Jack Campbell (leg) on the shelf. "I don't know what's going to happen from here."
Crosby scores in shootout to lift Penguins past Islanders
Sidney Crosby scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 comeback victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Casey DeSmith made 26 saves for the victory, including five stops in overtime plus all three of the Islanders’ attempts in the shootout. Mathew Barzal gave the Islanders a 3-2 late in the third period before Evgeni Malkin tied it for the Penguins with 18 seconds remaining. Barzal scored his fifth goal of the season on a tremendous individual effort, manoeuvring the puck around and past defenceman Pierre-Oliver Joseph before beating DeSmith over the shoulder at 13:35.
Down 1-0 through 20 minutes, Toronto had three great chances on the penalty kill in the second, but Rittich stopped Ilya Mikheyev on two breakaways and Jason Spezza on a 2-on-1 rush.
Calgary eventually struck on the power play after Mikheyev's second miss when Tkachuk tipped Mark Giordano's point shot past Hutchinson at 9:28 for his sixth goal of the season.
The Leafs, who came to life with a 5-on-3 power play in Saturday's 5-3 victory in Montreal over the Canadiens, got that long two-man advantage later in the period, but weren't able to get much through to Rittich.
"You get momentum off that," Monahan said. "Our killers were great."
Inserted into the lineup and onto Toronto's second line because of the injuries, Alexander Barabanov rattled Rittich's crossbar early in the third.
But Monahan, who returned after two games on the sidelines with a lower-body injury, banged home his third — and first in 13 contests — on another Calgary power play at 3:26 to make it 3-0.
The Leafs started to wake up after that as Keefe mixed up his lines, but it was too little too late for the home side as Rittich picked up the fourth shutout of his NHL career.
"It's one we needed," Monahan said. "It's a shortened season. We know what's at stake."
Matthews came in off back-to-back four-point performances and had a chance to become the first player in league history to open the scoring in five straight games, but Calgary went up 1-0 at 3:55 of the first when Andersson's point shot hit the stick of Tavares before leaking through Hutchinson for Bennett to tap over the line for his third.
Toronto's power play got two opportunities in the period, with Morgan Rielly coming closest when his shot struck the crossbar before Rittich closed the door on a scramble.
The Flames goaltender had to be sharp again late in the first when he fired out a pad to deny Spezza.
"That's an explosive hockey team down the hall," Ward said. "Our guys came prepared for the task.
"No matter what happened in the game we didn't lose focus. We just kept plugging."
Notes: Thornton and Hyman are both listed as day-to-day. ... Following the rematch in Toronto on Wednesday, the Flames play four in a row against the Ottawa Senators, including three straight in the nation's capital, starting Thursday. The Leafs open a five-game road trip Saturday in Edmonton with the first of three against Oilers before two more versus the Vancouver Canucks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2021.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Canadiens Game Day: Carey Price in goal, Paul Byron back in the lineup .
Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, SN, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and forward Paul Byron will return to the lineup. The Canadiens placed Byron on waivers last Sunday and after clearing waivers he was placed on the team’s taxi squad on Monday. Byron has struggled this season with 0-3-3 totals in 14 games. The 31-year-old is in the second season of a four-year, US$13.6-million contract with a $3.4 million salary-cap hit.