The Montreal Canadiens were facing off against their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in their one and only exhibition match and it didn’t go as planned.
The Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a speedy start and literally off the opening draw, Ilya Mikheyev got a great feed from John Tavares and put the puck past Carey Price, the goal opening the scoring. The leadoff goal for Toronto was scored just 33 seconds into the game.
You could tell that this was the first game that the Canadiens had played in nearly four months and they were outright being dominated in downtown Toronto in every aspect of the game. Their passes were weak and sloppy, this resulting in plenty of turnovers.
Toronto got their first power play of the game very early as less than five minutes into the game, Jordan Weal was sent off for slashing. The Habs were able to kill the penalty, and later in the period, had their own power play advantage when Nick Robertson was called for holding. Unfortunately for Montreal, they were unable to convert on the play.
The period ended with the Leafs up 1-0 as the siren sounded going into the first intermission. Heading into the second and Montreal seemed to play with a bit more intensity. You could see the team was starting to wake up just a bit, this being their starting point for the game’s remainder.
Alex Belzile had a great chance to tie the game, but Frederick Andersen came up with a big save. After the play, unfortunately, Belzile was pushed into the boards and fell to the ice awkwardly, but skated off under his own power. That would be all he played as he walked to the dressing room and did not return.
Three minutes into the second period, Montreal once again took another penalty when Brendan Gallagher was called for high-sticking. Toronto had another chance to increase their lead while discipline seemed to be an issue on Tuesday night for Montreal.
Montreal killed that penalty and then couldn’t really get anything going offensively. They got another chance to score on the man advantage, but Toronto was aligned, tasked with killing the penalty.
With nine minutes to go in the period, Toronto took another penalty and it gave Montreal a chance to get back in the game. It didn’t go quite as planned as off a rather unfortunate turnover, Alex Kerfoot got a pass and scored a shorthanded goal to double their lead.
Then, late in the period, just as another Montreal power play was expiring, the Canadiens finally got on the board as Tomas Tatar got a great feed from Nick Suzuki. As he buried it into the net, this cut Toronto’s lead over Montreal to one.
It didn’t take long for the Maple Leafs to come back swinging as Morgan Rielly got in on the action, taking a shot that got tipped by Alex Kerfoot. The goal, soon after, was awarded to the Canadian centreman for his second of the game. In doing so, he doubled Toronto’s lead over Montreal with 30 seconds remaining. That would see the Leafs up 3-1.
That’s how the second frame ended as the siren sounded heading into intermission. Heading on into the third, this would leave many wondering if things would get better or worse for the Habs. Eight minutes into the period, Montreal again got within one when Paul Byron took a juicy rebound off a Ben Chiarot slap-shot and buried it past Frederick Andersen.
Then, with 10 minutes left, Montreal got another chance at a man advantage, but once again, the Leafs scored shorthanded thanks to Morgan Rielly who went top shelf on Price. This would regain their lead, now up 4-2 with eleven minutes left.
Montreal would finish the night going 0-6 on the man advantage. Not to mention the shorthanded goals in their losing effort. The game would die down from there and the Leafs would take it by a 4-2 final.
It wasn’t the result the Canadiens were looking for and it shows a lot of work needs to be done before the first game on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.