Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 1
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Centre Bell, Montréal, Québec
The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a 4-1 win against the Montréal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Wednesday.
The Maple Leafs lead the Edmonton Oilers, who have two games in hand, by seven points for first place in the Scotia North Division. The top four teams will qualify for the playoffs.
“The guys have worked hard through a very challenging and unique season,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I think you do have to acknowledge that we spoke about it before the game, about let’s get it done here tonight. We acknowledged that after the game, but we also have acknowledged that we’re working towards bigger things.
“It’s a nice accomplishment, but we’re going to be continuing to work towards building our team to be ready to play when it counts the most.”
Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 35th goal, and Jack Campbell made 32 saves for Toronto (31-13-5), which has won three in a row after losing its previous five.
Joe Thornton got his 1,100th assist, becoming the seventh player in NHL history to reach the milestone, and Jason Spezza had two assists to tie Maurice Richard for 99th in points in NHL history (966).
“We’re playing with a couple of living legends,” Matthews said. “It’s pretty awesome at this stage in their career how passionate they are about the team, about winning, about performing every night. … It’s been awesome to have (Spezza) here for the second year and play with a guy like “Jumbo,” two guys that have a lot of history in this game. To witness them accomplish what they’ve accomplished, obviously, tonight was a big night for both of them.”
Nick Suzuki scored, and Jake Allen made 25 saves for Montréal (21-18-9), which has lost three of its past four games and remained six points ahead of the Calgary Flames for fourth in the division.
“If you look at the games that we’ve played against them, they’ve been really close games,” Canadiens forward Josh Anderson said. “And a lot of those games I do believe we were the better team. But then again, we just got to work on some of those mistakes and correct those down the road.
“But like I said from Day One, I believe in this team, and we’ve got a great group of guys in there and we can do some really good things. We’ve just got to put it on the ice and get through this together.”
William Nylander scored a power-play goal on the first shot of the game to give the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 1:38 of the first period. He got inside position on Shea Weber and tapped in a centering pass from Mitchell Marner.
Matthews made it 2-0 at 8:44. Nick Foligno’s pass hit the shin pad of Suzuki and deflected into the air, and Matthews batted the puck down around Suzuki before shooting glove side on Allen off the far post.
“He’s the elite of the elite,” Thornton said. “His release is incredible. The power he has, he’s the prototypical power forward that can just do it all right now.”
Jake Muzzin extended the lead to 3-1 at 6:27 of the second period. Thornton reached his milestone with the secondary assist on the play.
“I don’t look at them, but I’ve got quite a few,” Thornton said of his milestone pucks. “But that’s just a lot of hours of playing street hockey with my brothers and pond hockey and been lucky enough to play with a lot of good goal-scorers. It’s been fun so far.”
Suzuki cut it to 3-1 at 15:15 of the second when he drove the left side and scored his 10th goal on a wrist shot past Campbell blocker side.
“We’ve got to play a full 60 (minutes) against those guys,” Suzuki said. “If we did meet them in the playoffs, playing like that won’t win us any games. So we’re worried about ourselves right now and we’ve got to fix what was wrong tonight.”
Adam Brooks made it 4-1 at 8:15 of the third period, shooting into an open net after Allen misplayed the puck along the boards.
“We’ve worked hard to create an identity,” Spezza said of his line with Thornton and Brooks. “We know what works for us, we know what doesn’t. We’re seeing each other well. We’re doing a good job of trying to spread the zone and use our bodies. Brooks is a really smart player. He complements us really well. It’s good to have something to build off of. We’ve had a few games together here and just keep moving forward.”
NOTES: The Maple Leafs are 5-2-0 against the Canadiens. It’s the first time Toronto has won five games in a season against Montréal since 1966-67…Matthews scored his 10th game-winning goal of the season, tying Mats Sundin (2003-04) and Frank Mahovlich (1960-61) for third in Toronto history. Charlie Conacher scored 13 in 1934-35 and Tod Sloan scored 11 in 1955-56…The six players with more assists than Thornton in NHL history are Wayne Gretzky (1,963), Ron Francis (1,249), Mark Messier (1,193), Ray Bourque (1,169), Jaromir Jagr (1,155) and Paul Coffey (1,135)…Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin was placed on long-term injured reserve for personal reasons Wednesday. He missed the previous two games because of an unrelated illness.
MTL PEN – 00:59 – Toffoli, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 01:38 – Nylander (Marner, Rielly)
TOR PEN – 05:45 – Thornton, tripping
TOR GOAL – 08:44 – Matthews (Foligno, Rielly)
MTL PEN – 03:10 – Merrill, hooking
TOR GOAL – 06:27 – Muzzin (Spezza, Thornton)
MTL GOAL – 15:15 – Suzuki (Petry, Edmundson)
TOR PEN – 04:48 – Galchenyuk, high sticking
TOR GOAL – 08:15 – Brooks (Spezza, Holl)
MTL PEN – 12:05 – Petry, holding
TOR – Campbell (W, 32-33)
MTL – Allen (L, 25-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 7+11+11 = 29
MTL – 11+13+9 = 33
TOR – Goaltenders: Jack Campbell, David Rittich. Defence: T.J. Brodie, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly (A), Rasmus Sandin. Forwards: Adam Brooks, Nick Foligno, Alex Galchenyuk, Alexander Kerfoot, Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews (A), Ilya Mikheyev, William Nylander, Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza, John Tavares (C), Joe Thornton.
MTL – Goaltenders: Jake Allen, Cayden Primeau. Defence: Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Jon Merrill, Jeff Petry (A), Alexander Romanov, Shea Weber (C). Forwards: Josh Anderson, Joel Armia, Cole Caufield, Phillip Danault, Jake Evans, Michael Frolik, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Artturi Lehkonen, Corey Perry (A), Eric Staal, Nick Suzuki, Tyler Toffoli.
TOR – 31-13-5 (.684)
MTL – 21-18-9 (.531)
⭐ Auston Matthews (TOR)
⭐⭐ Morgan Rielly (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ William Nylander (TOR)