The Montreal Canadiens had a tall task ahead of themselves with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town on a Saturday night. Toronto was desperately looking to gain ground in the tight Atlantic Division playoff picture, while the Canadiens, who were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs last night, were looking to play spoiler.
The Leafs quickly looked to avenge their last visit to the Bell Centre last month, which saw them fall to the Canadiens 5-2, as the Leafs pounced on the Canadiens early. Auston Matthews buried his career-high 47th goal of the season off a quick one-timer from the right circle. The Maple Leafs did not relent after scoring the game’s opening goal, peppering Jake Allen with 11 more shots in the first period, while the Canadiens could only muster three shots.
However, as we’ve seen this season, the Canadiens were not going to back down while trailing after the first period. The Canadiens came out in a much more convincing fashion in the second period, holding down the fort defensive and getting chances when possible. The Canadiens thought they had tied the game off a broken play behind that net that sent a loose puck in front of the net that Christian Dvorak potted in the back of the net, but the play was ultimately overturned due to an offside challenge.
The Montreal Canadiens have had quite a few offside challenges go against them, and each time, it seemed to motivate them even more. This time was no different, as David Savard finished a pretty passing play between Nick Suzuki and Laurent Dauphin to tie the game and pot his second goal in three games since returning from injury. The Canadiens seemed to take off from this point on, bringing it to the Leafs and trading scoring chances with the Leafs until their defence was simply too overloaded, and Justin Holl was forced to take a penalty.
That’s the opportunity the Canadiens needed to strike, and they didn’t miss their chance. Nick Suzuki began a quick triangle play between himself, Chris Wideman and Cole Caufield, which saw them stretch the Maple Leafs’ defence to allow Caufield to unload a laser that would ultimately beat Erik Kallgren top shelf and give the Montreal Canadiens their first lead of the game.
The Canadiens got some unfortunate news to start the third period, with the club announcing that Michael Pezzetta and Tyler Pitlick would not be returning for the rest of the game. In the third period, the Leafs took full advantage of the tired Canadiens, forcing them to take three penalties within the first eight minutes. Those penalties proved costly, as William Nylander buried home a powerplay marker for his 24 of the season, tying the game and setting the stage for a momentous end to the game.
The Canadiens held off the Leafs all third period and did their utmost to clear the garbage in front of Jake Allen. The Canadiens were waiting for the Maple Leafs to make a critical error, and then it came. With Joel Armia stopping an Auston Matthews zone entry in its tracks, Paul Byron jumped on a loose puck and took it all the way to the other end, beating Kallgren high to give the Canadiens back the lead with 2:28 left in the game.
The Canadiens defended well in the last few minutes of the game, pushing Toronto to the outside and forcing them to overcommit. That strategy eventually paid off, as Paul Byron was able to take the puck up the ice and reel it back for Christian Dvorak to pot in his 8th of the season and close the game out for the Canadiens.
Here’s your MHN Postgame Poutine:
GOLD STAR: Jake Allen – Since his return from injury last week, Jake Allen has been stellar for the Montreal Canadiens, but tonight he was exceptional. Allen kept his team in the game, pushing back 49 of the 51 shots he faced, of which 37 were genuine scoring chances, and 19 were classified as high-danger chances. Most goalies only have to face 12-13 high danger chances on a given night, and Allen was able to push back all but two, giving the Canadiens every opportunity to stay in this game and pull out the rug from the Maple Leafs in the dying seconds of the third period.
Paul Byron donne les devants au Canadien!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 27, 2022
TABARNAK: Christian Dvorak’s goal overturned: The Canadiens were desperate for a sign of life early in the second period and thought they got it when Christian Dvorak jumped on a loose puck in front of the net. Unfortunately, the goal was eventually overturned after a successful coach’s challenge for offside on the play.
TURNING POINT: Cole Caufield’s powerplay goal- The Canadiens looked like they were out of it to begin the game but were able to claw back to an even playing field in the 2nd to tie it at 1-1. When the Leafs were called with an interference penalty with 2:40 to go in the second period, Goal Caufield made an appearance in front of the Bell Centre faithful. He finished a pretty passing play between Suzuki and Wideman by wiring home a wrist shot that beat Kallgren up high to give the Canadiens their first lead of the game.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 27, 2022
HONORABLE MENTION: Cole Caufield- Cole Caufield is truly on a tear. In his last 20 games under Martin St. Louis, he’s scored 13 goals, which is over a 50-goal pace. Tonight, he continued his solid play by being involved in all three zones and took over eight shot attempts despite the little room afforded to him by Toronto’s defence. Caufield stays in motion and keeps his options open by not solely relying on his shot to generate offence, resulting in better decisions on the ice and more scoring opportunities.
Belle redirection Jake!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 25, 2022
BY THE NUMBERS: Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens lined up Saturday night:
Cole Caufield-Nick Suzuki– Josh Anderson
Rem Pitlick-Jake Evans-Mike Hoffman
Paul Byron-Christian Dvorak-Joel Armia
Michael Pezzetta-Laurent Dauphin-Tyler Pitlick
Alexander Romanov-David Savard
William Lagesson-Joel Edmundson
Corey Schueneman-Chris Wideman
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think I can futher show an offensive side to my game by continuing to play the puck quickly. I can adapt to Marty’s concept and I want to stay here. I signed to play here and I want to be a part of this group” – David Savard on fitting into the new offensive style under Martin St. Louis.