A second chance by the Toronto Maple Leafs only ended in the Canadiens staying perfect. The Canadiens continued to keep their opponents at bay winning their ninth straight game 5-3 at Centre Bell Saturday night.
With an eight game winning streak, the Canadiens were looking at adding another as they hosted the Leafs who are searching for their second regulation win of the season. Carey Price got back in net since winning the last four in a row, which gave Mike Condon a chance in net. Last night against the Buffalo Sabres, the second string goaltender allowed just two goals while his support did all the scoring.
With Price returning, it gives them a solid chance to move closer to tying the NHL record for most wins to begin a season. Currently, the 2006-07 Sabres hold the record with the 1993-94 Leafs, which make the match so interesting. Toronto would keep that out of their heads as the lineup has been changing before every game to find that perfect group of players that can bring the wins.
The Habs took the opening faceoff and attacked the Toronto net quickly putting goaltender Jonathan Bernier in action. He and his defense stopped the attempt but just minutes later gave the Habs their first power play.
The advantage helped Montreal add shots to the net but none had the potential to give them the lead. Toronto’s success on the PK helped out their confidence and earned a power play of their own. Two shots went off the goal post showing that they were hungry to score first.
Toronto wasn’t able to convert on the power play but that didn’t stop them from showing their ferocity on even strength. It nearly paid off on a 3 on 1 play that was stopped by the leg pad of Price. Toronto lost their speed handing Montreal their second chance on the man advantage.
It worked on a drive from P.K. Subban as his shot went off Bernier before bouncing through the five hole and ending up in the net. It was his first of the season as he showed determination to score firing the puck at 96 mph.
Toronto got hold of the puck for a short time showing they had the movement to push back against the Canadiens and create scoring chances. They did it throughout the remaining minutes of the period and outshot Montreal 14-11. Though they didn’t tie the game, they spent 20 minutes bringing their game to match the one that Montreal had been so consistent doing.
They continued to prove it going into the second period as Alex Galchenyuk took a shot that rebounded for Lars Eller to score in the net just 1:54 into the period. It was his third of the season and the sixth assist for Galchenyuk. The Maple Leafs answered 43 seconds later with a rush into the Montreal end for Leo Komarov to score his fourth of the year on a wrist shot. It gave teammate Scott Harrington his first career NHL point making the assist.
Toronto couldn’t celebrate long as they were under attack by the Canadiens. A stretch pass that began with ended with David Desharnais shooting the puck into traffic watching the puck go off the skate of Michael Grabner before going into the net. It was just his second goal of the season but an important buffer that comforted the Canadiens. The two-goal lead shrunk back to one as Toronto scored on a mistake by Price. The shot he saw flew high up to hit the boards behind him. The loose puck got to the stick of James van Riemsdyk who easily put it into the open net that Price scrambled too late to. He gained his third of the season with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf picking up his fifth assist.
Being so close to tying the game once again added power to their offense as they had the edge over the Canadiens on shots to the net. A power play with six minutes left increased the pressure on Price who was doing everything he could in net while the Montreal PK figured out a way to move the puck out. They got it done winning the puck on the faceoff in their zone with captain Max Pacioretty moving the puck down the length of the ice before scoring a wrister all while shorthanded.
Finding themselves down two goals, the Maple Leafs started to lose focus and let frustration take over in the final minutes of play. Phaneuf tried to get Dale Wiese to throw down, but he was waved off by the defenseman who wouldn’t answer his call. It gave Montreal another power play where they made good of the advantage of Subban and the unnoticed Brendan Gallagher.
The right-winger came up behind Matt Hunwick putting his stick to the ice where the puck deflected off to score. It was his fourth of the season that came 14 seconds before the end of the second. Toronto’s 23 shots on net only gave them two goals, but having to overcome a three-goal margin would be very difficult to pull off.
The third opened with a even flow of hockey between both teams getting shots to the net. Fighting for the puck was done well by both the Habs and the Leafs but with the score still 5-3, Toronto had reason to pick up the pace. They did so five minutes in as the Leafs pressed their way into the Montreal end looking for the winner. It arrived on the skating of Morgan Rielly who went through the Montreal defense before firing the puck to the top shelf gaining his first of the year.
Though it didn’t make a dent in the score, the goal helped give the Maple Leafs some positive energy. They continued to rack up the shots on Price but the closer the end of the game got, the less chance of tying the game would be. With three minutes left, the Maple Leafs recorded their 50th shot on net, which was something Montreal hasn’t faced since playing the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011.
They did well to hold their lead despite Toronto pulling Bernier from the net. They managed to shoot two more before the horn sounded ending their Saturday night while Montreal notched another victory to their belt.
Price earned his sixth win of the season as he did plenty on the ice to prevent his team from recording a loss. He stopped a season high 49 saves for a .942 save percentage. In total he and the Canadiens dealt with over 80 shots from Toronto showing that no matter what the degree of difficulty, they would find a way to win. A new challenge would come into view as the Habs get set for a three game sweep through western Canada where they face the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.