John Tavares scored 2:17 into overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their fourth straight win, 4-3 against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday.
In what could be a first round matchup had fans from both sides chattering about the possibilities throughout the local bars, restaurants and hotel lobbies all weekend.
It was a very entertaining game featuring the usual large Toronto presence but definitely a different level of excitement. It’s been a long time since these two iconic franchises have been competitive teams at the same time, so ghosts of the past were on everyone’s mind.
Andrew Shaw gave the home side the early lead before fans were settled in their seats after Max Domi beat Auston Matthews on a faceoff in the Leafs zone.
Less than 4 minutes later goals by Andreas Johnsson and Nikita Zaitsev reversed the score giving the visitors the upper hand before Tomas Tatar fooled Frederik Andersen at the 1:13 of the middle frame to tie it up again.
Goals in the third by Brendan Gallagher and William Nylander sent the game into extra minutes with fans on both sides holding their breaths.
The game was marked with some strange penalties; Tavares 4-minutes for a highstick while going around Jordie Benn; Auston Matthews for a delay of game showing off his baseball skills swatting a puck into the stands; Phillip Danault a slow motion call for tripping Mitch Marner; questionable interference infractions to both sides and finally Zaitsev’s delay of game in the last minute dumping the puck over the glass.
The skill level is very one sided in Toronto’s favour but the Canadiens never stop moving their feet; take the body when they can; use their point-men extremely well and they shut the potent Toronto power play down by aggressively forcing the play that had them looking confused more than anything.
Frederik Andersen and Carey Price where both off their games allowing a few goals they need to stop. The big three of Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner were quiet most of the game that may have been a combination of them not playing well and the Canadiens not allowing them any room.
Montreal I’m sure felt robbed giving up a point after an opportunity on the power play in over time. However on one of their man advantages there was a span of 20-seconds before they had a man in front of the Leafs net.
Toronto on the first of a 6-game road trip can feel fortunate to come away with the extra point after dodging a bullet down a man in extra time and the poor play from their big guns. The energetic play of the Habs will hopefully be a good reminder that talent alone doesn’t cut it in today's NHL.