Nick Suzuki dished two assists and scored the overtime winner as the Montréal Canadiens rallied off three unanswered goals to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.
Forwards Kirby Dach and Sean Monahan both had two points for the Canadiens and forward Josh Anderson buried the game-tying goal for his team-leading third goal of the pre-season.
Habs’ goalie Jake Allen stopped 25 of 29 shots in the win.
Toronto captain John Tavares had two goals and played over 18 minutes while defenceman Timothy Liljegren had assists on both goals. Off-season acquisition Max Domi scored his second of the pre-season and Noah Gregor continued to make the most of his PTO (tryout contract) by snapping home his first of the exhibition run.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov stopped 21 shots in the losing effort and moved to 1-0-1 in preseason play.
Coming in hot
Montréal came out with a chip on their shoulder having lost the previous two matchups against the Leafs and refused to lose a third straight against them.
Capitalizing on a power play less than three minutes in after Domi was sent off for slashing, Habs’ defenceman Mattias Norlinder scored his first of the preseason from a point shot that redirected off a Maple Leafs’ defender and past Samsonov to put the away side up by one.
The Leafs’ scored on the team’s first shot at 7:13 when Gregor ripped a shot from the face off dot to the surprise of Allen and the 18,631 fans in attendance. The 25-year-old forward entered the game with two assists in four games and was one of three Leafs playing in their fifth preseason game.
Five minutes later Toronto took advantage of a power play of their own after Montréal captain Suzuki was sent off for hooking Mitch Marner at 10:43. Enter Tavares who put away the power-play goal for his first of the preseason while getting knocked to his knees in the Canadiens’ crease.
A stalemate second period was broken with just over five minutes remaining when Domi scored his second of the preseason on a tap-in above Allen’s glove to put the Maple Leafs ahead by two.
Tensions began to then boil over with plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving between the two teams before Arber Xhekaj and Nicholas Robertson traded penalties – a high-sticking double-minor for the former and slashing for the latter.
The Canadiens showed signs of life with 12 seconds left in the period with a shorthanded goal from Dach off a two-on-one play with Monahan for his first goal and second point of the preseason making it a 3-2 game.
The sloppy period was a focal point for head coach Sheldon Keefe after the game.
“We didn’t take care of the puck well and were a little too cute with it,” Keefe said in his postgame press conference. “Whether it’s preseason or not, you like to think you’re past some of that stuff and we weren’t tonight, but we have time to get that fixed.”
The third period started much like the second with limited scoring opportunities and unsuccessful power play chances.
That’s when Tavares scored his second goal of the game at the 11:40 mark after catching Montréal on their heels in their defensive end, but not before the Canadiens answered right back on a seeing-eye-shot from defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic to keep the Habs within striking distance.
Canadiens’ Anderson scored a powerful wrist shot with 41-seconds left to tie the game 4-4 and send the Leafs to their second overtime game of the preseason.
Montréal completed their comeback just over 30 seconds into overtime as Suzuki buried a rebound off a Cole Caufield snapshot that rang loudly off the post.
NOTES: Suzuki’s overtime winner was his third point of the game … Toronto forward Matthew Knies entered the game with five points in four games … The Maple Leafs went 1-for-5 on the power play.