Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2
Saturday, May 8, 2021
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario
The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched first place in the Scotia North Division and denied the Montréal Canadiens from clinching a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a 3-2 win at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
It is the first division title for the Maple Leafs since 2000-01 when they won the Northeast Division.
“We felt really good about our team offensively but we knew we needed to get better defensively this season,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We were pretty close to the bottom of the League last season and 5-on-5 goals against, and this season we are up in the top five of the League. The team’s commitment to defending, we got good goaltending even though we used four goalies, and the fact we were able to keep the puck out of our net I would say is the biggest reason we were able to be as consistent as we were.”
William Nylander scored to extend his point streak to seven games, and Jack Campbell made 21 saves for the Maple Leafs (35-13-6), who are 7-0-1 in their past eight.
“It’s a good feeling,” Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner said. “It’s something we wanted to try and do at the start of the season and set our goal to. Obviously it’s not the ending goal we want, but it is step two of what we wanted to accomplish. Now we just have to make sure we keep going with the pedal down.”
Brett Kulak and Nick Suzuki scored, and Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Canadiens (24-21-9), who have lost three in a row, including 5-2 here Thursday.
Montréal is fourth in the seven-team North Division. The Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets have secured three of the four playoff berths.
“We have to have better starts,” Canadiens defenceman Jon Merrill said. “Tonight was a step in the right direction in that department but I think we have to put together a complete game and get a win. That’s when your confidence starts to build. You win a game, string a few together and you start feeling good.”
Toronto trailed 2-0 before scoring three straight goals in the second period.
“We weren’t good at all in the first period and that was disappointing,” Keefe said. “We knew Montréal was going to be a lot better, they had a day off (Friday) so we knew they’d be better than when we saw them Thursday (on the second of back-to-back games). That’s an area where our team grew this season, these types of games didn’t get away on us, we got to work and climbed our way back.”
Mitchell Marner gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead at 16:33 of the second with a shot from the top of the left circle after Auston Matthews won a faceoff against Suzuki directly back to him.
“It’s a faceoff win,” Marner said. “I was just trying to get it on and off my stick as quickly as possible and it found a way in.”
Nylander tied the game 2-2 with a shot from the left side of the goal crease at 13:36. He has three goals and four assists in his past seven games.
“I think (my game) has been pretty good,” Nylander said. “We’ve been grinding for a lot of our goals so it’s nice to see those go in. Hopefully it continues here down the stretch.”
Pierre Engvall scored in his third straight game, cutting the lead to 2-1 at 5:02.
“They had a pushback,” Canadiens forward Eric Staal said. “We knew it was a possibility but I just think they were attacking us a bit better and we didn’t handle the pressure as well. But it was tight both ways. They got a break on a faceoff play there but we would have liked to have a better second and build on the lead that we had.”
Kulak shot from the high slot at 3:34 of the first period to put the Canadiens up 1-0.
Suzuki made it 2-0 31 seconds into the second period with a shot from the right faceoff dot.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs have held first place in the North Division for 106 of 116 days this season…Suzuki became the 10th player in Canadiens history to score his 80th NHL point at age 21 or younger. He has scored 26 goals and 54 assists in 125 games.
Story property of NHL.com, photo property Of The Globe & Mail
MTL GOAL – 03:34 – Kulak (Belzile)
TOR PEN – 12:30 – Holl, tripping
MTL GOAL – 00:31 – Suzuki (Toffoli, Petry)
TOR GOAL – 05:02 – Engvall (Spezza, Holl)
TOR PEN – 06:10 – Marner, tripping
TOR GOAL – 13:36 – Nylander (Tavares, Muzzin)
TOR GOAL – 16:33 – Marner (Matthews)
MTL PEN – 19:29 – Petry, cross checking
TOR PEN – 03:56 – Nylander, tripping
MTL PEN – 19:32 – Petry, tripping
TOR – Campbell (W, 21-23)
MTL – Allen (L, 23-26)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 4+10+12 = 26
MTL – 7+10+6 = 23
TOR – Goaltenders: Jack Campbell, David Rittich. Defence: T.J. Brodie, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl, Ben Hutton, Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly (A). Forwards: Adam Brooks, Pierre Engvall, 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, Brett Kulak, Jon Merrill, Jeff Petry (A), Alexander Romanov. Forwards: Josh Anderson (A), Joel Armia, Alex Belzile, Cole Caufield, Jake Evans, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Artturi Lehkonen, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, Tyler Toffoli.
TOR – 35-13-6 (.704)
MTL – 24-21-9 (.528)
⭐ Mitchell Marner (TOR)
⭐⭐ Pierre Engvall (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Nick Suzuki (MTL)