Still without the services of their star netminder, the Montreal Canadiens looked to rebound against one of the league’s better teams after suffering a disappointing loss to the league’s worst. Despite sporting a promising 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games, the Canadiens welcomed the Toronto Maple Leafs, looking to correct course against Auston Matthews and co.
The Canadiens came out strong in the first period, outworking and outshooting the Leafs to a tune of 15-6 in the opening frame. Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, and Shea Weber all had high-quality scoring chances for the home team, but they couldn’t get one behind Frederik Andersen.
Not to be outdone, Charlie Lindgren also turned away every shot he faced at the other end of ice. A late tripping call against Jordie Benn threatened to put wind back into Toronto’s sails, but Lindgren withstood the late Leafs barrage, allowing his team to push back and keep it a scoreless game heading into the second.
The Leafs found new life in the second frame, pressuring the Canadiens early. It was a stark reversal of fortunes for the home team, but the Habs would soon return the favour. Taking advantage of Toronto’s defensive lapses, Montreal was able to successfully set up shop in the offensive zone. The Canadiens got a couple of opportunities to get on the board first, the best of which came to Brendan Gallagher when he found himself alone in the slot. But much like in the first period, he couldn’t put one past Andersen.
Any momentum from that scoring chance was immediately dashed when Weber took an ill-timed interference penalty a little over eight minutes into the period. The Canadiens were able to successfully kill off the penalty, but they didn’t quite look the same after that.
Despite being outplayed, the Maple Leafs struck first. Ron Hainsey got his first goal of the season to open the scoring. Toronto went on to double its lead 37 seconds later, when Nazem Kadri beat Lindgren to put the Leafs up by two. Just like that, the Canadiens’ second-period woes came back to haunt them, as they headed into the final frame down a pair of goals.
A demoralized Canadiens squad were struck another blow, when the Maple Leafs added to their lead under half a minute into the third. Connor Brown found himself all alone in front of Lindgren and had no trouble beating the sprawling goalie to give Toronto a three-goal lead.
Lindgren’s night continued to go south, as he was the victim of an accidental hit from Jeff Petry. Luckily, the goaltender was no worse for wear and was able to stay in net.
Meanwhile, under five minutes into the frame, tempers began to flare when Kadri attempted to blindside Weber. Neither Weber, nor Jordie Benn, took too kindly to Kadri’s gesture, as Weber responded immediately by dropping his gloves.
Both players were assessed roughing penalties on the play, with Weber serving an extra two minutes in the box. Despite the penalty kill remaining perfect on the ensuing Maple Leafs power play, the Canadiens continued to bleed goals through the rest of the period, as the wheels came off on what started as a decent effort.
Just under halfway through the third, James van Riemsdyk waltzed in to give Toronto a 4-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Auston Matthews would score in his first game back from injury to give the Leafs a five-goal lead.
That was the end of the night for Lindgren, who gave up five goals on 28 shots. He was pulled in favour of Antti Niemi, who made his debut for the Canadiens under the worst of circumstances.
Niemi didn’t fare much better, gifting another goal to Matthews, his second goal of the game capping off an embarrassing effort from the Canadiens, as they were shut out 6-0 on home ice.
- The Montreal Canadiens defence is a tire fire. Between looking disorganized, disinterested, and completely demoralized by the end of the third period, there wasn’t one standout defenceman for the Canadiens in this game. The duo of Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry, in particular, had a terrible night, with the Leafs outshooting the Canadiens every time the pair was on the ice. And just how long do the Canadiens plan to use Jordie Benn as one half of their top pairing?
- Speaking of defencemen, what do the Canadiens intend on doing with Victor Mete? Mete was the least-used defenceman in the game, playing just over 13 minutes against the Leafs. With the World Junior Championship on the horizon, it may be in the Canadiens’ best interest to let Mete represent his national team, while giving Jakub Jerabek an opportunity to play in his stead.
- No longer is losing Carey Price a satisfactory explanation for the Canadiens’ poor play. If anything, Marc Bergevin needs to answer for this loss. This is Bergevin’s sixth season as the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, and it is difficult to argue that this year’s edition of the Canadiens has gotten any better than the team he had inherited back in 2012. With the sole exception of Jonathan Drouin, it is difficult to argue that any of his moves from the off-season have panned out. The defence has not improved, the offence has not improved, the special teams have not improved and as the Canadiens continue to lose, it becomes more and more difficult to not point a finger at the man responsible for constructing the team.