The Montreal Canadiens tried to play the same game that worked for them in Game 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Auston Matthews and Toronto shrugged that off and simply said “Not today!”.
The result was a 5-1 Toronto win that evened the best of seven series at one. The scene shifts to Montreal for Tuesday night’s Game 3.
Montreal Canadiens’ Penalty Kill Gets Burned
Montreal allowed so many wide-open chances in Game 1 and early in Game 2. Carey Price was up to the task as he helped turn away two more Toronto power plays. However, the third proved to be fatal as Rasmus Sandin scored to make it 3-1 with a blast from the point. Dominique Ducharme challenged the goal based on alleged Joe Thornton interference. That proved not to be the case and Toronto was given another power play. Toronto missed that opportunity but there would be more.
Toronto struck once more during the third period to further increase their lead. William Nylander cleaned up an opportunity to score a goal after Auston Matthews hammered a shot off the post. That made the game 4-1. Toronto added an empty-net goal to make it 5-1 but the story was special teams again. This time it was in Toronto’s favor.
The Maple Leafs went 2 for 6 on the man advantage and only committed one penalty. That taxed the Montreal penalty kill. Their bend but not break style finally broke. Montreal’s box looked slow as Toronto was able to move the puck around at will. This looked more like Toronto’s power play from the first 10-15 games of the 2021 season.
Montreal is in deep trouble as Toronto woke up. It was an inevitable fear and reality. By the way, Matthews has eight goals in his last nine games versus Montreal which includes a few power-play goals as well.
Montreal Let The Game Get Away
Some debated the officiating was suspect but honestly the flow of this game tilted toward Toronto from almost the beginning. This looked a bit more like most of the matchups during the regular season. There could be no excuses about compressed scheduling this time around. Toronto had seven of the nine high-danger chances at even strength. The expected goals for was 2.1 for Toronto to Montreal’s measly 0.98.
Again, it was more than the lack of Montreal discipline, it was Toronto that asserted their ability. The second period was an absolute clinic as the Maple Leafs outplayed the Canadiens throughout the entire 20 minutes. Montreal’s players could not get pucks out of their zone, could not win faceoffs (just 19 of 56 on the evening), and it did not help that Shea Weber took 12 minutes in penalties. That strained Montreal even more than they were already.
Carey Price could only do so much. Allowing two goals was not actually so bad considering the 20 shots Toronto had. The goaltender kept the game somewhat competitive even though the result felt academic after 40 minutes. Montreal had little or no offensive punch and understandably Toronto let up a bit later in the third period. By then, the damage was done.
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So, What About Game 3?
The question will keep getting asked. When do we see Cole Caufield? Maybe the more accurate inquiry is do we see Caufield at all in this series? Jesperi Kotkaniemi was solid and scored a goal in Game 3. However, Montreal missed Jake Evans immensely. They had few answers for Toronto in so many phases.
Montreal’s top-six barely mustered much of anything at all. Again, it felt too much like what was seen during the regular season where Toronto went 7-2-1 against the Canadiens. If Ducharme and company, do not make some adjustments, this still could be a rather short series. Montreal definitely is at a crossroads it expected to be.