Sports About Last Night: Maple Leafs win battle of the backups 3-2 over Habs
What the Puck: When the Canadiens play as a team, they're hard to beat
It really is a blast following the ups and downs of the Montreal Canadiens and always has been. There’s no better entertainment around. But fun as it is, it can be a frustrating and downright perplexing world to live in. For example, the National Hockey League trade deadline passed and our Habs were mostly inactive in terms of significant deals, but there are two competing storylines among fans and some in the media, and neither makes any sense. On one side, there are those who believe that the Canadiens’ season is already toast, that there’s no possibility they’ll do any damage in the playoffs.
After both teams scored on their first shots of the game, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs got locked in a defensive battle, with the Leafs emerging victorious 3-2. Leafs netminder Jack Campbell withstood a late barrage by the Habs to win his tenth straight game to open his season. The Leafs did it without William Nylander, a late scratch over a possible COVID exposure.
With usual starter Frederik Andersen out with a lower-body injury, Campbell has grabbed the gig by the horns, going 10-0-0 with a minuscule 1.58 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. It’s been a winding hockey journey for the former highly touted first-rounder: after being picked 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2010, Campbell bounced around the minors, including the ECHL, before finding his way back to Los Angeles and now the Leafs.
Canadiens Game Day: Habs face a big challenge against Maple Leafs
In previous seasons, long-term injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher would have basically meant the end of the season for the Canadiens. In the words of former Monday Night Football commentator “Dandy” Don Meredith: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” Price is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while the Canadiens announced Wednesday afternoon that Gallagher has been placed on long-term injured reserve with a fractured right thumb and is expected to miss at least six weeks, which means his regular season is over with 14-9-23 totals in 35 games.
Campbell made 32 saves in the win and gave up few rebounds. He covered up the puck in almost every instance, halting the Canadiens’ momentum and making it hard to follow up on initial chances. One of the few rebounds he couldn’t corral came from Tyler Toffoli with under two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third period and the opposing net empty. Constant net presence Corey Perry grabbed the puck first, using his long reach to put it up and over Campbell to half the Leaf lead. Perry supplied all the team’s offence.
Video: Week 11 roundup of the NHL's North Division (cbc.ca)
Auston Matthews opened scoring under a minute into the contest, taking advantage of a long shift by Phillip Danault and Shea Weber to out hustle them before carving a tight wraparound around Habs goalie Jake Allen. Like Campbell, Allen has been temporarily thrust into the starring role due to injury: Carey Price is day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered in Monday’s game versus the Edmonton Oilers. Just over a minute after the Matthews goal, ageless wonder Perry scored his first on the night, getting enough time and space to freeze Campbell with a fake shot before sneaking one through the goaltender’s twitching legs. Otherwise, the majority of the first frame was played the Canadiens’ zone, and Allen made 12 stops to keep the game tied.
Maple Leafs acquire Riley Nash from Blue Jackets for draft pick
The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a conditional seventh-round selection in 2022. Nash is expected to miss four to six weeks with a sprained knee, meaning he essentially is a playoff pickup for the Maple Leafs. If he plays in 25% of the Maple Leafs’ playoff games this season, the seventh-round selection will become a sixth-rounder. The veteran forward will likely be put on long-term injured reserve through the end of the season, meaning his cap hit is basically irrelevant to the Maple Leafs.
The momentum swung in the goalless second period, as both squads hunkered down defensively. The Habs were outshot 13-7 in the first, but held the advantage in the second 17-4. Both teams sacrificed for their goalies, as the blocked shot counters rose and the shooting lanes were clogged. Already reeling from the injury to Brendan Gallagher, who was placed on LTIR with a fractured thumb, the Habs nearly lost another scorer when Leaf rearguard T.J. Brodie landed awkwardly on Josh Anderson’s leg. Anderson limped to the dressing room with time winding down in the second, but he returned to the bench for the third and played with his usual gusto for the remainder of the game.
In the third, Toronto retook the lead early, when Brodie scored his first as a Leaf off a fortuitous redirect from Victor Mete’s skate blade. About halfway through the period, the Leafs extended their lead to two when Zach Hyman scored off a 3-on-2 rush. Although the referees had largely put their whistles away, Matthews was called for bracing a Perry hit by raising his arms. It gave the Habs a chance to kickstart their offence, but they couldn’t get settled in the offensive zone. Perry’s late goal gave them a chance, but after getting an offensive zone faceoff with 45 seconds remaining, the Habs couldn’t tie it up. In all, both teams blocked a combined 36 shots.
The game yo-yo’d from the Leafs dominating to the Habs dominating to the Leafs dominating again, and the liveblog commenters went along with the ride. They’re wondering if callup Cayden Primeau will get a start either tomorrow or Saturday against the Jets, and it largely depends on the status of Price. With Allen holding his own Wednesday against a red hot Campbell with 29 saves, the Habs may keep him in for the back-to-back. Here are your three stars from the comments:
Canadiens at Maple Leafs: Five things you should know .
Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena (7:30 p.m., SN, SN1, RDS, TSN Radio 690, 98.5 FM). The matchup: This is the fifth of 10 meetings between the teams and, while each game has been decided by no more than two goals, the Canadiens have only one victory to show for their efforts. Toronto (26-10-3) has spent most of the season in first place in the all-Canadian North Division and returns home following a successful four-game road trip, having swept both Winnipeg and Calgary twice. The Maple Leafs are undefeated in their last eight games (7-0-1).