The Leafs opened the scoring early in the first period when a @Morgan Rielly wrist shot found its way through a crowd in front and past a screened @Jake Allen. If you could give two assists to the same player on a goal, @Alex Galchenyuk would have deserved both. His through-the-legs pass back to the point is what lead to the Rielly shot in the first place, and the chaos he caused as he went to the front of the net is what prevented Allen from tracking the puck.
In what would become a theme during this game, the referees called three consecutive penalties against the Leafs that were weak in nature. Within the spirit of the rules? Probably. But within the standard that we’ve seen these types of calls made? Probably not. The Leafs weathered the storm with two straight penalty kills, but the Habs capitalized on their third try with a @Nick Suzuki cross-seam pass to @Tyler Toffoli that everyone at home saw coming. Toffoli buried the puck into the wide open cage and the game was tied.
The Leafs carried the play for much of the second, outshooting the Habs 10-4 in the middle frame, but had issues finishing. Their fledgling powerplay, now 5/65 (7.7%) over the last two months, looked its usual blasé self as the Leafs passed it around the perimeter until ultimately giving it away, as is now tradition.
Thankfully, the Leafs have the best goal scorer in the NHL to put them on his back. @Auston Matthews posted up in front of the net against the rough and tough @Joel Edmundson, then tipped a hip-high @Jake Muzzin shot back against Allen’s momentum, as he slid from right-to-left to corral the possibly-going-wide wrister. Matthews let out an emphatic “whoo!”, clearly impressed with himself, and the Leafs went into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead.
Not sure if this was by design by Montreal or simply because they lack much in the way of high octane talent, but the third period felt like it lacked much in the way of flow or excitement. @Jack Campbell made two absolutely brilliant stops to thwart the Habs’ plans to tie the game, including a miraculous, twisting back-of-the-leg save off a point-blank rebound attempt from @Josh Anderson.
At no point did this game feel completely over, though, as @Ilya Mikheyev missed an opportunity to put the game away with the Habs net empty. With one minute left, Matthews cleanly lost a faceoff to @Phillip Danault, who then found himself at the side of the net with the puck after a series of Habs passes around the outside of the Leafs’ defensive box. Danault tried stuffing the puck into the net from a bad angle, presumably because nothing else was working against Campbell up to that point, and it squeaked through Campbell’s lower extremities to tie the game.
Overtime began with a lost faceoff, followed by 60-75 seconds of the most cowardly hockey you will ever see, as the Habs sauntered around the neutral zone, circling back again and again, trying to run out the clock on Matthews’ first shift of the extra frame. At a certain point, Matthews made his way off the ice and the Habs began actually trying to advance the puck up ice. A @TJ Brodie poke-check broke up a Habs odd-man rush, sending Matthews and @Mitch Marner on a 2-on-0 against Allen, which was soundly screwed up by over-passing. Moments later, @Cole Caufield took a drop-pass in the slot and buried a wrister past Campbell for an extra point Montreal needed far more than Toronto.
Third Star: Auston Matthews
Matthews scored his league-leading 39th goal of the season, which widened his lead in the Rocket Richard race to 10 goals. He lead all shooters with five shots and had multiple chances to bury more goals. Was around the puck all night and back-checked hard, especially in one sequence where he chased down Danault for about 150 feet.
Second Star: Nick Suzuki
Three assists for Suzuki, including two primary assists on the Habs first two goals. Suzuki had the puck on his stick all night and finished with a 59.8 CF% and 66.1 xGF%.
First Star: Jack Campbell
Yes, the tying goal was a stinker. But Campbell made no less than four ten bell saves to bail the Leafs out of tough situations they put him in. I’m intrigued to know what his GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expectation) was before the Habs late tying goal, because he was vibing out there tonight.
Tweet of the Night:
Nylander’s reaction perfectly encapsulates Leafs fans’ feelings towards the refs. All you can do is raise your hands and scream at the sky.
The Leafs play Montreal twice more this week, with their next match at home on Thursday. Toronto will be the fresher team, as Montreal will have played in Ottawa the night before, so need to take advantage. Who knows, maybe Zach Hyman will be closer to returning from his knee injury?