The Toronto Maple Leafs used five unanswered goals to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in Game 2 of their North Division semi-final to even up the series at 1-1.
Auston Matthews’s first goal of the series 5:15 into the second period ended up being the game-winning goal as Toronto outshot Montreal 34-23.
Toronto had the first great scoring chance that started when a puck got behind Carey Price. Ben Chiarot cleared the line, but the puck found Nick Foligno who fired the puck and missed the gaping cage.
The Canadiens opened the scoring just a few minutes later. Just under eight minutes into the first period, Jesperi Kotkaniemi jumped on a loose puck and put it past Jack Campbell. Kotkaniemi was playing his first game of the series, replacing the injured Jake Evans.
The lead lasted less than five minutes. After sustained pressure on the Montreal zone, Jason Spezza came off the bench, got a pass, and took wrist shot from right circle that beat Price.
Montreal would get their first power play of the game late in the first period when Zach Hyman was called for holding. While the power play looked better, they were unable to generate much offence. In the second half of the penalty, they did have sustained zone time, and ended up with two shots.
The second period got off to an inauspicious start when on the opening shift, Matthews picked off a Brendan Gallagher pass to generate a scoring chance, but Price made the save.
Gallagher would get a chance from the slot of his own, but did not hit the net a few minutes later.
The action continued to go back and forth, as shortly after that Gallagher chance, Justin Holl took a shot after the team entered the Canadiens zone, and while Price made the first save, Matthews pounded on the loose puck from the slot to make it 2-1.
The game changed shortly after the Matthews goal. The Canadiens took two straight penalties, and momentum went squarely in Toronto’s direction. They were able to kill the first two penalties, but not without some miraculous goaltending from Price, and a timely stick of Joel Armia.
The back-to-back penalties, even though they were killed, had some of Montreal’s top players sitting for four straight minutes. Less than two minutes after the second kill, Kotkaniemi broke his stick on a cross check to give Toronto yet another advantage.
The third time was the charm for the Maple Leafs’ power play as they scored their first power play goal of the series. Rasmus Sandin laid into the puck at the top of the zone for his first career NHL playoff goal to make the score 3-1.
After the goal, the Canadiens thought that they saw contact between Joe Thornton and Carey Price and challenged the goal for goaltender interference. The call on the ice stood, and Montreal went right back to the penalty kill. They did manage to kill the penalty, but could not generate any momentum to try and cut the deficit.
Just before the midway point of the third period, on yet another power play, the Maple Leafs hit the post behind Price. The puck bounced right to William Nylander who fired the puck past a sprawling goaltender to make it 4-1.
The Canadiens failed to really test Campbell throughout the final two periods, and never really threatened to get back into the game. Even an early pull of the goaltender, with six minutes left in the game, failed to really generate anything.
With 1:23 remaining, Alex Kerfoot added an empty net goal.
The game ended with physicality, as there were five penalties given out in the game’s final 29 seconds. Nine seconds after a Paul Byron cross-checking penalty, Joel Edmundson and Wayne Simmonds took roughing penalties. Shea Weber and Pierre Engvall got 10 minute misconducts.
Montreal will now look to regroup and take the positives of a 1-1 split back home for Game 3 on Monday. It will be their first playoff game at the Bell Centre since April 20, 2017.