Politics

About Last Night: Tanking can wait when playing the Leafs


Paul Byron scored the winner and Jake Allen made 49 saves in a 4-2 Canadiens win over Toronto on Saturday night.

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The Canadiens might be mathematically eliminated from the playoff race and are only playing for pride down the stretch, but it never hurts to add to the win column in hockey’s oldest rivalry.

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Paul Byron scored with 2:28 remaining and Christian Dvorak added an empty-netter to give the Habs a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at the Bell Centre. Jake Allen faced 51 shots and stopped 49 of them, giving him three 45-plus save performances on the season.

Both Tyler Pitlick and Michael Pezzetta left the game with upper-body injuries and did not return. After the game, the team announced Jonathan Drouin aggravated his right wrist injury against the Bruins on Monday and will seek a second opinion about surgery.

After the first period, the Leafs appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Pitlick had already left after taking a hit by Ilya Lyubushkin and the Habs defensive corps wasn’t exactly striking fear in the hearts of men, especially with assistant coach Luke Richardson in COVID protocol. William Lagesson made his debut as a Hab sporting Guillaume Latendresse’s old No. 84, and got burned on the opening goal 36 seconds in by Auston Matthews.

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The Habs were outshot 12-3 in the opening frame, but clawed back in the second.

Early in the second, Montreal thought they tied it when Mitch Marner bounced the puck off Joel Armia and right to Dvorak in front, who placed it up and over Erik Källgren’s blocker, but after Toronto’s challenge, the play was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.

After Pezzetta left the game following a physical play with Timothy Liljegren, David Savard scored his second goal in three games since his return from injury. Savard jumped in the rush and received a sharp pass across from Laurent Dauphin for the 1-1 tying goal.

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With less than two minutes remaining in the second period, Cole Caufield fired a wrister under the bar for a power-play goal to give Montreal their first lead of the night. Caufield has 14 goals on the season, and Nick Suzuki assisted on both goals as they continue their point-per-game paces under interim coach Martin St. Louis.

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The vaunted Leafs power play got one too many chances in the third period, and made it count when William Nylander scored in an empty cage to tie the game 2-2.

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The goalies were often the story. Allen slid across and robbed Marner with his blocker on what looked like a surefire goal.

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Not to be outdone, Källgren at the other end stretched his pad out to deny the surprisingly quick David Savard all alone in front.

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The Leafs threw everything at Allen in the third, outshooting the Habs 24-3, but it was Paul Byron who sealed it late with his third goal in four games. A three-on-one formed after Matthews was knocked down at the blueline, and while Byron’s eyes indicated pass, he was planning to shoot. He beat Källgren five-hole to give Montreal a 3-2 advantage with time winding down.

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Dvorak, who had an earlier goal called back, added an empty-netter in the final minute. The Habs were outshot 51-18, but came away with the 4-2 regulation win.

Earlier in the day, the team also announced they signed NCAA defenceman Jordan Harris to a two-year entry-level deal. With the recent departures of Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak, and with Jeff Petry on the shelf indefinitely, the outgoing Northeastern captain may get his chance in the pros soon enough. The team also called up forward Jesse Ylönen from the Laval Rocket.

Netminder Carey Price made a video appearance for Indigenous Celebration night, and the team rocked beautiful orange warmup sweaters designed by Kahnawake artist Teiowí:sonte Thomas Deer.

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Even though the Leafs are playoff bound and the Habs are embarking on a rebuild, none of that matters when the puck drops. The same could be said when the Leafs were rebuilding a few years back. Fortunes may rise and dip for each club, but when they face off on a Saturday night, one gets swept up in the rivalry all over again.

The Liveblog commenters felt the same way. Who doesn’t love an entertaining Habs-Leafs battle on Hockey Night in Canada? Actually, a lot of their comments pertained to the broadcast itself, and you can guess why…

3. “Amazing how quick the broadcast changes to the Canucks game… wouldn’t want to spend any time commenting on what a great game this was!!” -Haari Meech

2. “Yeah, but a sixth season of 1st round exit… that would really, really be cruel. (So why do I secretly want it?)” -Michael Way

1. “MSL must have given them quite a pep talk during the first intermission.” -Kenneth Denpasar

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