Preseason Game 49
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Auston Matthews didn’t score a point in his Toronto Maple Leafs debut, but his gifts were easily apparent at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday night.
Matthews played more than 18 minutes and had two shots in Toronto’s 3-2 exhibition overtime win against Montréal, displaying the elite package of skills which helped him become the first player picked number one overall by the Leafs since 1985.
Matt Hunwick scored the overtime winner, joined on the scoresheet by Nikita Zaitsev and Morgan Rielly. Jhonas Enroth and Garret Sparks combined to make 24 saves.
Daniel Audette and Daniel Carr found the back of the net for Montréal, with Mike Condon making 28 stops.
Matthews wore number 34 and looked at ease right away in his first action as a Leaf, starting on a line with 2014 first-round pick William Nylander and Zach Hyman in his debut.
The Scottsdale, Arizona native picked the puck off Carr on the back check of his very first shift, springing a counter-attack for the home side. Later in the opening period Matthews took a Nylander pass in front and delivered a backhand shot from 17 feet that was turned aside by Condon.
His most impressive play came moments into the second frame. Slashing toward the net, after he raced with speed into the offensive zone, Matthews still managed to whip a shot on goal as he was held by Canadiens defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, who was whistled for a penalty on the play.
All throughout the night his talents were evident, albeit against a Montréal squad that dressed almost no NHL regulars.
Toronto finished with better than 60 percent puck possession, drawing six power plays along the way.
Matthews, who did drop five-of-six faceoffs, is just the headlining talent among a wave of young Leafs expected to step into the NHL this season, with many on display Sunday.
Each of the Leafs last five first-round picks (2012-2016) suited up against the Canadiens, including Nylander, the 19-year-old who had 13 points in his first 22 NHL games, and Mitch Marner, a top pick in 2015 trying to stick in the NHL for the first time this season.
Toronto expects to get a whole lot faster in the coming year with skill to match, traits that were on display in Sunday’s exhibition tilt.
“We’re obviously much more talented than we were last year,” head coach Mike Babcock said Sunday morning. “Last year we could check the puck back but when we got the puck we didn’t know what to do with it.”
Zaitsev, a 24-year-old rookie from Russia, scored the Leafs first goal when he stepped in from the point and whistled a shot past Condon’s blocker. Audette, the son of long-time Buffalo Sabre Donald Audette, opened the scoring in the first frame.
Rielly put the Leafs in front 2-1 with about 12 minutes to go in the third. The 22-year-old started and then finished a Toronto rush, his shot beating Condon short side.
Carr pulled Montréal even with 17 seconds left in regulation, with Hunwick winning it with 40 seconds left in overtime. It was the third goal of the pre-season for the veteran defender and was set up by James van Riemsdyk.
Toronto got its first taste of Matthews at the recently completed World Cup of Hockey where the 19-year-old shined alongside Connor McDavid for Team North America. Looking more than ready for NHL competition, Matthews rung up a pair of goals and three points in three games.
Seven of the eight Leafs who represented Toronto at the World Cup made their pre-season debuts on Sunday: Matthews (North America), Zaitsev (Russia), Rielly (North America), Leo Komarov (Finland), Roman Polak (Czech Republic), Milan Michalek (Czech Republic) and van Riemsdyk (USA).
Enroth, who backed up Henrik Lundqvist for Sweden, was playing his second game.
Babcock was also coaching his first game for Toronto after guiding Canada to the World Cup crown.
TOR PEN – 04:14 – Valiev, hooking
MTL GOAL – 13:20 – Audette (Beaulieu)
MTL PEN – 16:04 – Matteau, delay of game
MTL PEN – 02:00 – Sergachev, holding
MTL PEN – 05:53 – Barberio, holding
TOR GOAL – 09:19 – Zaitsev (Brown, Valiev)
MTL PEN – 11:09 – Beaulieu, elbowing
MTL PEN – 14:53 – Beaulieu, delay of game
TOR PEN – 18:15 – Polak, tripping
TOR GOAL – 07:35 – Rielly (Nylander, Hyman)
MTL PEN – 12:40 – Barberio, delay of game
TOR PEN – 17:07 – Hunwick, tripping
TOR PEN – 17:29 – Polak, delay of game
MTL EA GOAL – 19:42 – Carr (Desharnais, Beaulieu)
TOR GOAL – 04:20 – Hunwick (van Riemsdyk, Bozak)
TOR – Enroth (7-8), Sparks (W, 17-18)
MTL – Condon (OTL, 28-31)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 7+11+10+3 = 31
MTL – 4+7+12+3 = 26
TOR – Goaltenders: Jhonas Enroth, Garret Sparks. Defence: Matt Hunwick (A), Martin Marincin, Roman Polak, Morgan Rielly, Rinat Valiev, Nikita Zaitsev. Forwards: Tyler Bozak (A), Connor Brown, Frédérik Gauthier, Zach Hyman, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov (A), Mitchell Marner, Matt Martin, Auston Matthews, Milan Michalek, William Nylander, James van Riemsdyk.
MTL – Goaltenders: Mike Condon, Charlie Lindgren. Defence: Mark Barberio, Nathan Beaulieu (A), Greg Pateryn, Jeff Petry (A), Zach Redmond, Mikhail Sergachev. Forwards: Jeremiah Addison, Sven Andrighetto, Daniel Audette, Daniel Carr, Jacob de la Rose, David Desharnais (A), Charles Hudon, Artturi Lehkonen, Stefan Matteau, Michael McCarron, Nikita Scherbak, Chris Terry.