Earlier in the day on Wednesday. Marc Bergevin had put Brendan Gallagher on LTIR, meaning that he will be out for at least the upcoming six weeks. A few hours later, it was time for the Montreal Canadiens to play their first game since the injuries to both Gallagher and Carey Price were announced. This effectively meant lineup change duty for Dominique Ducharme, who placed Jesperi Kotkaniemi on Phillip Danault’s right wing and Jake Allen between the pipes.
Toronto started with ferocity, and the often lethal Auston Matthews buried the first goal of the evening, his league-leading 28th of the season, with less than a minute played. Matthews’s speed and veocity while circling past Montreal captain Shea Weber behind the net was reminiscent of the old fable of The Tortoise & The Hare, unfortunately here ending with an easy win for the swift rodent. However, the shot itself did not look unobtainable for Allen in net.
Montreal was faced with a red-hot goaltender in Jack Campbell, who came into the game undefeated through nine games with a .944 save percentage on the year. Fortunately, Campbell – similar to Allen – started off this night on a low, letting in the very first shot he faced. Nick Suzuki found Corey Perry near the net, and for each game that passes it becomes increasingly bewildering that no team signed Perry for a more substantial salary this off-season. When he put the puck through the five-hole his patience opened up, it marked Perry’s eighth goal of the year since he was brought up from the taxi squad and permanently inserted into the lineup.
Just to make the game slightly more difficult for themselves, the Canadiens decided to take two consecutive penalties within a minute’s time. This put a notoriously gifted Maple Leafs power play up by two men for a substantial period of time. Thankfully, the penalty kill and Allen efficiently closed down space and the game remained tied at one apiece.
Toronto had most of the puck, spending double the amount of ice time in the Montreal zone as their opponents did in theirs. With that, they also got most of the shot opportunities, outshooting their guests 13-7 going into the break.
The Canadiens came out firing in the second period, quickly eating their way into, and past, the Leafs’ shot advantage. Campbell had to break a full sweat to keep his conceded goal tally down to just that single one while Allen stood idle on the other side. With eight minutes left to play, Montreal had outshot their opponents 12-1 in the second period. Shots mean nothing if you can’t convert them though, and since neither team did, the score remained tied.
The period ended on a worrying note, as Josh Anderson collided with T.J. Brodie and apeared to twist his knee. He limped off to the locker room with what seemed like considerable pain just as the buzzer sounded.
Brodie collides with Josh Anderson, sending the Habs forward to the locker room limping pic.twitter.com/A0PMj62C4C— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) April 8, 2021
Apparently, the medicine men worked their magic on Anderson, since he was back on the ice for the start of the third period. Toronto began in a similar manner to the first, piling up in the offensive zone and forcing Allen to demonstrate his value to the Habs.
Two minutes in, Toronto regained the lead. After a lucky bounce, the puck ended up in the slot where Brodie showed up out of the blue to put it in the net. It took half a season, but Brodie has finally scored as a Maple Leaf.
The goal raised both the stakes and the pace of the game, and Toronto could have had their third goal of the evening if it weren’t for a couple of quality saves by Allen. Montreal tried to establish the same type of play as they had in the second period, forcing the Leafs to lay more of their focus on their back end. Seven minutes in, Joel Edmundson struck the crossbar with a clean shot from the point.
Halfway into the third, Matthews won the puck behind his own net and quickly transitioned that takeaway into a three-on-two, accompanied by Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. Allen left a rebound on the eventual backhand shot by Matthews, and Hyman was the wiser on the rebound from the crease.
The Canadiens got a possible rebound opportunity with a man advantage following a tripping call, but failed to register a single shot during the two minutes. The power play looked as anemic as it did in the days of yore.
Ducharme removed Allen to gamble on a six-on-five advantage with three minutes left to play, and it paid dividends as Perry scored his second of the night from the crease, after an arduous battle against Campbell in the Toronto net.
Unfortunately, that was all she wrote this night. The Habs put presure on Campbell and the Maple Leafs’ defence for the remainder of the game, but without being able to capitalize and take the contest to overtime and falling 3-2.
The Canadiens will now return home to face the Winnipeg Jets in a 7:00 PM ET battle on Thursday night.