After losing Victor Mete to the waiver wire and acquiring Erik Gustaffson by trade earlier in the afternoon, the Montreal Canadiens took on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre Monday night in their first game after the trade deadline. Though they gave up a 2-0 lead and couldn’t keep Auston Matthews off the board, a pair of goals from Tomas Tatar, 23 saves from Jake Allen, and an overall strong game from the Habs ultimately lifted them to a 4-2 victory over their divisional rival.
Tatar set the tone for the evening and gave the Habs the energy they’ve been missing since Brendan Gallagher’s injury a little over a minute into the game by sending his ninth of the season past Jack Campbell, the Toronto netminder who would go on to see his historic win streak end at 11 games.
On the opening goal, Matthews lost a puck battle behind his net and a sequence of bounces saw Paul Byron tip the puck off of Alex Galchenyuk’s skate and right to Tatar’s stick, which allowed him to simply deflect his first of his night by Campbell’s blocker side.
Montreal was quick to double their lead by taking advantage of their first power play of the night less than halfway through the first. With Zach Bogosian in the box for a high stick against Josh Anderson, Nick Suzuki was able to score his ninth of the season with a powerful wristshot that went in glove-side.
Not only did the Canadiens have a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play but they completely dominated the Leafs in the opening frame, restricting them to just three shots on goal.
The scoring in the second period started with the Maple Leafs bringing themselves back to within one. With the Canadiens playing a strong defensive game, Marner was forced to take possession of the puck near the blue line in his offensive zone, but Matthews was waiting in front of Allen to tip Marner’s pass behind Allen for his 32nd of the season.
Byron nearly restored Montreal’s two-goal lead shortly after Matthews got Toronto on the board, but Campbell got a piece of his his glove on the breakaway wrister to keep his team within one.
With five minutes remaining in the period, Montreal failed to clear their zone twice and left players uncovered in the slot, leaving John Tavares free to backhand his 13th of the season up and over Allen’s glove to tie the game at two.
Thankfully for Montreal, they retook control of the period before the Leafs could take their first lead of the night. With a little less than four minutes to play, Brett Kulak blocked a shot that sent him and Anderson on a two-on-one. While Campbell was expecting a pass, Anderson opted to wrist his 15th of the season into the net, giving the Canadiens a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
Toronto had a chance to tie the game up halfway through the final period as Jonathan Drouin was called for tripping, but the Canadiens’ penalty kill remained perfect on the night.
With two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game and Toronto’s goalie on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Tatar was able to secure a much-needed victory for the Habs with an empty-net goal.
The Canadiens will be back in action and will look to build off this victory on Thursday night when they take on the Calgary Flames.