Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 5
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
The Toronto Maple Leafs stayed alive and knocked out their biggest rivals, too.
Trailing the Montréal Canadiens by one entering the third period, the Maple Leafs got power-play goals from Bryan McCabe and Kyle Wellwood and then held on for a 6-5 victory on Saturday night in the final game for both teams.
The Maple Leafs now need the New York Islanders to lose at New Jersey on Sunday to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If New York wins, the Islanders are in.
“I’m very proud of our team. We’ll cross our fingers now,” Toronto captain Mats Sundin said.
Carlo Colaiacovo started Toronto’s comeback after the Canadiens turned a 3-1 deficit in the second period into a 5-3 lead.
Michael Ryder scored three straight to make it 4-3, and Chris Higgins – a Long Island native – scored his second of the night to give Montréal its two-goal edge. Canadiens captain Saku Koivu assisted on all of Ryder’s goals.
“We had a lot of guys step up and play great, but the bottom line is we we’re not in the playoffs” Koivu said.
Ryder had three goals and an assist.
“It was definitely in our hands. We were up 5-3,” Ryder said. “We knew we had to kill penalties in the third. Their power play did the job.”
Wellwood gave Toronto the lead for good by tipping a screened shot past goalie Cristobal Huet at 3:43 of the third. Huet made his first start since Feb 14. Toronto started the third with a two-man advantage after Steve Bégin took a double minor for high-sticking to close the second. Koivu’s tripping penalty at 2 minutes, produced another 5-on-3 for the Leafs.
The Canadiens emptied their net for the extra attacker with 1:15 left, but couldn’t get a shot on goal.
Bates Battaglia, Nik Antropov and Alex Steen also scored for the Maple Leafs, whose fate could in the hands of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur. He said he won’t do Toronto any favours by playing against the Islanders in a meaningless game for the Devils on Sunday.
Toronto coach Paul Maurice said if the Maple Leafs don’t make it to the postseason, they can still take pleasure in knowing they eliminated Montréal.
“It was all that is good about our game in Canada. Everybody gets so excited on Saturday night in Canada, and we won,” Maurice said.
Either New York or Toronto will play top-seeded Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs.
Ryder rallied Montréal within a span 5:49.
He scored his first just 36 seconds second after Alex Steen gave Toronto a 4-2 lead. The weak shot ticked off Andrew Raycroft’s glove and in at 1:48 of the second.
Ryder tied it by scoring on his own rebound at 4:32 and gave Montréal the lead at 7:37 on a wraparound.
Maurice replaced Raycroft with Jean-Sébastien Aubin after Ryder’s third goal.
Higgins followed with his second goal, giving Montréal a 5-3 lead at 14:31 of the second.
“The year was on the line. I don’t think anybody expected this,” Aubin said.
Colaiacovo got Toronto back in it with a screened shot at 17:46 of the second.
Montréal’s Mike Johnson received a tripping penalty before Bégin took his double minor that gave Toronto a two-man advantage for the first 48 seconds of the third.
McCabe tied it at 5 just 58 seconds in the third with a screened shot.
“We showed a ton of character,” McCabe said. “Now we’ll just wait.”
Toronto outshot Montréal 19-4 in the first 10 minutes of the first period and put a season-high 23 shots on goal in the frame.
Battaglia gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 7:53 of the first by converting Yanic Perreault’s pass from behind the net.
Higgins stole the puck from defenceman Pavel Kubina and skated past Tomas Kaberle before tying it with a shot blocker side.
Antropov regained the lead for Toronto with a weak redirection shot that trickled between Huet’s pads at 16:09 of the second.
Montréal coach Guy Carbonneau took a risk by playing goalie Huet, who hadn’t started a game since having hamstring surgery Feb 14. He played only the third period of Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers since.
“People are going to question Carbonneau for putting him in, but I think it was the right move. We all stood by his decision,” Higgins said.
NOTES: Another press box was created for the high-profile game…Sundin, one goal shy of tying Darryl Sittler’s franchise record (389), was held without one for the 12th straight game.
Story property of NHL.com
MTL PEN – 00:54 – Komisarek, roughing
TOR PEN – 00:54 – Kilger, roughing
MTL PEN – 02:02 – Plekanec, hooking
TOR GOAL – 07:53 – Battaglia (Perreault, Pohl)
MTL GOAL – 12:15 – Higgins
TOR GOAL – 16:09 – Antropov (Sundin, Ponikarovsky)
MTL PEN – 18:11 – Bonk, holding
TOR GOAL – 01:12 – Steen (Devereaux, Stajan)
MTL GOAL – 01:48 – Ryder (Koivu)
TOR PEN – 03:01 – Kubina, holding
TOR PEN – 03:38 – Gill, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 04:42 – Ryder (Koivu, Markov)
MTL GOAL – 07:37 – Ryder (Higgins, Koivu)
MTL PEN – 09:23 – Bégin, slashing
TOR PEN – 14:11 – Kilger, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 14:31 – Higgins (Ryder, Souray)
TOR GOAL – 17:46 – Colaiacovo (Wellwood, Tucker)
MTL PEN – 18:48 – Johnson, tripping
MTL PEN – 20:00 – Bégin, high sticking double minor
TOR PP GOAL – 00:58 – McCabe (Kaberle, Sundin)
MTL PEN – 02:00 – Koivu, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 03:43 – Wellwood (Kaberle, Sundin)
TOR PEN – 07:23 – Kubina, interference
TOR – Raycroft (16-20), Aubin (W, 5-6)
MTL – Huet (L, 29-35)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 23+8+4 = 35
MTL – 9+14+3 = 26
TOR – Goaltenders: Jean-Sébastien Aubin, Andrew Raycroft. Defence: Carlo Colaiacovo, Hal Gill, Tomas Kaberle (A), Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe (A), Ian White. Forwards: Nikolai Antropov, Bates Battaglia, Boyd Devereaux, Chad Kilger, Yanic Perreault, John Pohl, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Alexander Steen, Mats Sundin (C), Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood.
MTL – Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Cristobal Huet. Defence: Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Mike Komisarek, Andrei Markov, Sheldon Souray (A), Mark Streit. Forwards: Steve Bégin, Radek Bonk, Christopher Higgins, Mike Johnson, Saku Koivu (C), Andrei Kostitsyn, Alex Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre, Alexander Perezhogin, Tomas Plekanec, Michael Ryder.
TOR – 40-31-11 (.555)
MTL – 42-34-6 (.549)
⭐ Mats Sundin (TOR)
⭐⭐ Michael Ryder (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Alexander Steen (TOR)