On Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens faced a do-or-die game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team came out aggressive, changing up their attack, and got out to a three-goal lead. They then squandered that lead late in the third period and squeaked into overtime, where Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield teamed up to stave off elimination.
The Canadiens had to do that once more in Montreal, with 2,500 of their own fans in the building for the first time in well over a year. There were two lineup changes, the first being Jon Merrill coming out due to an injury sustained in Game 5, while Brett Kulak replaced him next to Erik Gustafsson. The other move saw Jake Evans slotting onto the top-line left wing spot with Tomas Tatar coming out of the lineup.
Montreal came out like a house of fire, piling up a half dozen shots as Toronto was scrambling around their defensive zone to try to slow them down. The only thing that temporarily halted the Montreal attack was a tripping penalty on Josh Anderson. The Habs however, took exception with the call and proceeded to create more scoring chances short-handed than Toronto did with the man advantage and kept the game scoreless in the early going.
Montreal drew the next call however, with Jeff Petry taking a high stick from Alexander Kerfoot. It wasn’t pretty as Montreal registered just one shot with their advantage, but followed up their power play with a partial break from Nick Suzuki that Jack Campbell barely snuffed out along his goal line.
After the offensive outburst, it was Carey Price having to be on his toes to keep the game goalless. Jeff Petry backed off a bit too far to give Mitch Marner a view on net, and Marner’s shot hit off of Petry’s skate then up into the air. Price snagged it with a flourish of the glove, but he wasn’t done yet. An odd-man Toronto rush saw the pass fall to Nick Foligno, and his one-time shot was denied by a quick pad save from Price to ensure the game went into the intermission with both teams still looking for a goal.
The Habs came out strong once more, with Cole Caufield darting around the Leafs’ defence and besting Campbell with his shot, but not the post as it pinged away. Then after a lengthy defensive shift from Petry and Joel Edmundson, Shea Weber flung the puck over the glass, putting Toronto back on the power play. The Habs, aided by a lunging poke check by Price kept the Leafs off the board again, and turned it into a three-on-one rush, with Tyler Toffoli opting to shoot, but he too was denied.
Montreal attacked in waves after a Caufield break created an odd-man rush from the blue line in. The Canadiens fired multiple chances on net, including Eric Staal firing just high and wide as Jack Campbell barrel-rolled to cover his net. It was all Montreal from there, as they pushed Toronto back over and over. For the Leafs, it was made worse by Jake Muzzin exiting the game with a potential groin injury as well.
Despite the Canadiens opening a shooting gallery on Campbell, the game remained tied at zero as the second intermission arrived.
A debatable holding the stick call sent Toronto to an early third-period power play, with key penalty-killer Phillip Danault heading to the box for two minutes or less. The Leafs had some of their best looks of the game, but Price and some active sticks kept the puck out of the net.
Then came the even-up call for the Canadiens. It didn’t take Montreal long to make theirs count, with a Caufield one-timer bouncing around the crease, where eventually Corey Perry jumped in, sweeping the puck into the net for a tentative one-goal lead.
Sheldon Keefe then unsuccessfully challenged for goaltender interference, putting Toronto right back on the penalty kill. On that kill, Mitch Marner rifled the puck out of play, presenting the Habs with a two-man advantage. The Canadiens made the most of it with Nick Suzuki feeding a puck to Tyler Toffoli in the slot, and Toffoli squeaked it through his former teammate to make it a two-goal lead for Montreal.
Marner, trying to make amends for his penalty charged down the ice, cutting to the net-front and drawing a slashing call in the process. The Toronto power play piled up a handful of chances, but Price remained cooler than the other side of the pillow and the Canadiens killed yet another Leafs power play.
With just over eight minutes remaining, Toronto finally got on the board, thanks to a huge helping hand from Canadiens defenders. Joel Edmundson’s clearing attempt was batted back to the centre of the ice and onto Jason Spezza’s stick. Jeff Petry had Spezza angled off well, but Spezza’s shot ramped off Petry’s stick and over Price’s glove to put the Leafs down just a goal.
Then, with three minutes left, it was Jeff Petry’s misfortune that benefitted Toronto once again. An Eric Staal turnover made its way to T.J. Brodie at the point, he fired a simple shot that Petry attempted to block, and managed to steer it under Price’s arm to tie the game at two goals apiece.
For the second game in a row, the Forever Rivals headed to overtime with elimination lingering over the Canadiens.
Overtime had almost 14 minutes of near abject disaster for the Canadiens, as Toronto sent wave after wave against the Montreal defence. Price was called upon at least a half dozen times for critical glove saves, and lunging toes saves on Auston Matthews.
Then, it was Montreal again taking advantage of one of the few big mistakes from Toronto in this series. Travis Dermott picked up a dump-in, and as he spun to pass it, he put it right on the tape of Paul Byron, who in turn fed it to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Finnish centre fired a howitzer of a shot, bouncing it off of Zach Bogosian’s leg, and past Campbell to improbably force a Game 7 in Toronto on Monday night with a 3-2 overtime win.
One final task lies ahead of the Canadiens, and it’s an all bets are off type game. Montreal either hands their biggest rival a first series win in 17 years, or Toronto manages to find arguably their most scarring way to lose a playoff series yet.