Not much went well for the Montreal Canadiens in their exhibition tuneup against the Maple Leafs.
It has been a long time in the making, but hockey has finally returned. With a series of exhibition games planned before the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs took in part one of the first games back.
For the Leafs, they can hold their heads up high as they prepare to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. On the Habs side, there is still work to be done, with defensive gaffes that led to goals against immediately and a power play that led to more advantages to the opposing team than their own. Here is a recap of tonight’s tilt.
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The Toronto Maple Leafs wasted no time getting on the board early, as Ilya Mikheyev scored on a two-on-one against Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. Both teams looked flimsy early on with the puck bouncing off every stick it touched, but the Leafs were the ones to capitalize on a Habs team that could not get things under control.
The Maple Leafs were given the first man advantage of the game, but the Canadiens prevented the Leafs from getting any significant chances.
Montreal was then handed their first power play halfway through the first period. The Canadiens were able to find their way to the offensive zone, but could not connect on any passes, often leading to interceptions from the Maple Leafs. Like the Leafs, the Canadiens were also unable to capitalize on the man advantage
In the final moments, it seemed as if the Canadiens had taken control of the games pacing with the top line of Philip Danault, Tomas Tatar, and Brendan Gallagher getting successive shots. Regardless, the period concluded with the Leafs still holding the 1-0 lead. Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry taking a penalty in the last six seconds.
Alex Belzile took a bit early on from Jake Muzzin at the start of the second period and left for the dressing room. Brendan Gallagher then proceeded to get a high stick penalty giving the Leafs their third power play. Unfortunately for the Leafs, they were unable to figure out Carey Price who had tightened up after allowing the early goal in the first period.
The Toronto Maple Leafs extended their lead 2-0 with a goal from Alex Kerfoot 23 seconds after Cody Ceci took a penalty to put the Canadiens on the powerplay. It certainly was not the outcome the Canadiens were looking for.
It took several power play attempts but the Montreal Canadiens were finally able to capitalize with a solid playmaking move by Nick Suzuki to sit up Tomas Tatar bringing the Leafs’ lead down to a single goal. Alex Kerfoot then proceeded to score his second goal of the night with assists from Morgan Rielly and the 18-year old Nick Robertson.
In a relatively quiet first half, the Montreal Canadiens once again knocked the Maple Leafs lead down to a single goal with Paul Byron picking up a rebound from a Ben Chiarot shot that deflected off the post.
Ceci then took a penalty, giving the opportunity for the Canadiens to tie up the game, but for the second time, the Canadiens let in a goal with the man advantage. 4-2 Leafs.
The Canadiens did not do much to alter their game, which played a role in their inability to make a comeback. It would have been beneficial for Claude Julien to put his lines in a blender to see what works and what does not, as this was their last game before the Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin.
In a last-ditch effort, the Montreal Canadiens pulled Carey Price to get the extra man, but to no avail, the Leafs held onto their lead to win 4-2.
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Onward to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers
Although some more matchups between the longtime rivals are always welcome, both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens will be moving on to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The Montreal Canadiens will face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, August 1st while the Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Columbus Blue Jackets the following day.