Matthews scores his 64th, Samsonov continues hot stretch as Maple Leafs beat Canadiens 4-2

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
For the third and final time this season, the NHL’s longest-running rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens met on the ice last night for the second-last Hockey Night in Canada of the regular season, as the Maple Leafs welcomed Mitch Marner back into the lineup.

First period:

On Wednesday, Toronto got Morgan Rielly back in the lineup after missing four games with an injury. Last night, they got Marner back in the lineup after missing 12 games with an injury, and in their 76th game of the season, they played their oldest rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, for the third and final time. The atmosphere at the Bell Centre will always be great. Whether it is a Maple Leafs – Canadiens game or another team taking on Montreal, you can guarantee the crowd will be noisy. And, last night, the crowd got into it right away, with both fan bases chanting “Go Leafs Go” and “Go Habs Go” for their respective teams.
Despite Leafs fans getting into it early on, it was a slow and uneventful period for their favourite team. They had trouble generating shots on Sam Montembeault, and when they did, the Canadiens netminder made the saves for his team. No penalties were called throughout the 20 minutes, meaning no power plays for either team and after 20 minutes of five-on-five play, neither team was able to score a goal.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 0-0 and outshot 9-4.

Second period:

After combing for zero goals on 13 shots in the first period, the second period was a different story, and the Maple Leafs began the action almost immediately with two goals in quick succession from the top line.
Just over two minutes into the middle frame, the Maple Leafs’ top line went to work in the offensive zone against a tired Canadiens group. The puck made its way around the boards to Auston Matthews, and instead of touching it, he let it go by, and Ilya Lyubushkin collected it. The birthday boy fired a point shot, and the former Hab, Max Domi, tipped home his ninth of the season past Sam Montembeault for the 1-0 lead.
Less than 20 seconds after Domi’s opening tally, the top line returned to the Montreal zone, looking to double their lead, and that’s what they did. After scoring his 63rd goal of the season 72 hours prior, Matthews spun around at the side of the net, fired a shot that took a bounce off David Savard and found a way past Montembeault.
In the span of 2:38 to begin the middle period, Toronto had recorded the same amount of shots as they did in the first period and were rewarded with two goals. Although the top line got two quick goals, they weren’t done. As mentioned in the pregame article, Sheldon Keefe and his coaching staff juggled the lines with Mitch Marner’s return, and it benefited them again with a goal from a new-look third line.
Roughly five minutes after taking a 2-0 lead, the third line, with William Nylander on the right wing instead of Nick Robertson, fired a shot on the net. Montembeault produced a juicy rebound, and Matthew Knies, who entered last night with points in four of his previous five games, potted home the rebound for his 14th goal of the season.
Suddenly, a 0-0 game is 3-0 for the road team. The Canadiens needed to try and swing the momentum back in their favour. Earlier in the game, Michael Pezzetta delivered a late hit on David Kampf and heard it from Max Domi. Although Domi wasn’t the one to drop the gloves, Ryan Reaves challenged Pezzetta for his actions, and the two dropped their gloves just before the midway point of the period, with Reaves earning the takedown.
On top of a 3-0 lead, Reaves gave his team a massive win in his second fight in as many games, and that momentum carried over to the next couple of shifts. But one shift, in particular, produced a fourth goal for Toronto roughly 30 seconds after the fight. In his first game back from injury, Marner received a pass and found Bobby McMann streaking toward the net for a mini breakaway. The 27-year-old settled the puck and ripped his 15th of the season past Montembeault, yanking him from the crease after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
Unfortunately, almost immediately after going up 4-0, Tyler Bertuzzi was whistled for high-sticking Mike Matheson in the offensive zone, and Montreal was awarded the game’s first power play. It took the home team roughly 10 seconds to find the back of the net after Juraj Slafkovsky fired a cross-ice pass to Nick Suzuki, who beat Ilya Samsonov with his 33rd goal of the season.
The goal from the Canadiens didn’t affect the Maple Leafs’ momentum. They continued to look like the better team in the second period, generating a handful of looks on Cayden Primeau, who came in relief for Montembeault. But with less than two minutes to go, the third line of the Maple Leafs got hemmed in the defensive zone, and Pontus Holmberg and Simon Benoit got caught chasing the same guy, leaving Cole Caufield alone at the side of the net, and he scored his 23rd goal of the season, cutting the Maple Leafs lead to two.
Toronto entered the second intermission up 4-2 and outshooting Montreal 22-17.

Third period:

Over the last couple of weeks, the third period hasn’t been a period where the Maple Leafs have played their best. Whether it’s games that they’re leading in or trailing, they haven’t controlled much of the play in the final 20 minutes and have struggled to generate shots on the net. With them holding protecting a two-goal after initially being up 4-0, the third period had the potential to be interesting if they were going to sit back and allow Montreal to attack them.
Luckily, the overall period was competitive for both sides, and Toronto didn’t seem hemmed in, given a push from Montreal. There were no goals scored in the final 20 minutes between both sides. Still, the Maple Leafs were handed their first power play of the game roughly midway through the period after Joel Armia was whistled for hooking, sending Toronto to the man advantage for the first time with Marner back in the lineup.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the back of the net, further dropping their power play percentage over the last month. But given their four-goal explosion in the second period, they didn’t need to rely on the power play this period to get them out of any possible danger. That, and the fact the Canadiens didn’t score again on Samsonov, and Toronto was able to hold on to the 4-2 win in the end, improving to 44-23-9 on the season (97 points).

 Who stood out:

After earning his fourth start in the team’s last six games, Ilya Samsonov impressed yet again. He wasn’t overly tested, but the 27-year-old faced 26 shots, turning aside 24, in the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 win over the Canadiens, which improved his record to 22-6-7 on the season and 17-4-1 in his last 22 games since returning from his brief time away from the team in mid-January.
There are still six games left in the season for Toronto, but Ilya Samsonov is making it easy for the coach to decide who should start game one of the playoffs in two weeks. Entering last night’s game with 26 goals in 33 games against the Canadiens, Auston Matthews had a strong chance of extending his point streak with a goal on his pursuit to 70 goals in the last seven games of the season. As we know, it took Matthews 2:38 in the second period to score his 64th goal of the season, putting him six shy of 70 and two away from breaking Alex Ovechkin’s salary cap era record for goals in a season. (65).
It was the first game with Mitch Marner back in the lineup, which meant it was the first game with the new-look lines. And, although their opponent was Montreal, they didn’t look all that bad. The top line of Bertuzzi, Matthews, and Domi continued their excellent play, scoring two goals and controlling the play over their opponent when they were on the ice.
According to Moneypuck.com, they outscored their opposition 2-0, won the shot attempt battle 18-10, outshot them 9-6, and generated an xGF% of 72.1%. The other three lines generated an xGF% north of 54% last night, too, which is good. Other than the fourth line, the other two lines from Toronto each scored once, which is a promising sign that these new-look lines can stick together and produce for this team.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Monday night when they return home to open up their second-last back-to-back of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)

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