Nick Suzuki’s overtime winner pushed the Montréal Canadiens over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time this preseason in a 5-4 victory on Monday at Scotiabank Arena.
Facing a 4-2 deficit going into the third period, Johnathan Kovacevic’s shot from the blue line deflected off the skate of Toronto’s Mikko Kokkonen situated the Canadiens (2-3-0) within one with just over seven minutes remaining.
It would be a centering pass from Kirby Dach to Josh Anderson, which beat Ilya Samsonov blocker side with 43 seconds remaining, that forced the rivals into extra time. Suzuki assisted on the goal.
Jake Allen made 29 saves in his first game of the preseason, while Samsonov recorded 26 saves in his second start.
The Monday evening game, which saw 18,631 in attendance, marked the third meeting between the Leafs (3-2-1) and the Canadiens in the exhibition schedule.
Leafs reigned victorious in the two prior meetings last week, limiting their opponent to one goal on both occasions.
The starting half of the first period witnessed dominance from the Canadiens, as the Leafs failed to record a shot on goal within the first five minutes of play.
With roughly three minutes underway, the Leafs were sent to the penalty kill as Max Domi received a two-minute minor for slashing Nick Suzuki.
The penalty marks his second of the preseason, leading many to make comparisons between himself and his father. Yet, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe believes his on-ice aggression is nothing to be alarmed about.
“The penalty tonight, you know, he gets on the hands with his stick there but I really liked his effort on that one – coming back, open his feet, and he’s all over it – you know, that’s the kind of stuff you can clean up,” Keefe said, afterwards.
“I’d rather have to tone a guy down than have to kick him in the ass to get him going.”
Defenseman Mattias Norlinder scored his first of exhibition nearly 25 seconds into the power-play with a shot from the blueline, which hit the pad of Samsonov. It was assisted by Sean Monahan and Suzuki.
Toronto off to fast start
While the Leafs found opportunities out front, it was Noah Gregor who walked in and beat Allen glove side to put the home team on the board. Ryan Reaves received an assist on the play.
Following a two-minute minor by Suzuki for hooking, John Tavares capitalized on the power-play as he flicked the puck over the glove of Allen and hit the crossbar, tying the game at one apiece.
The second period was all about physicality as early penalties were drawn by Jake Evans (7:27) for hooking and Tavares (12:23) for interference. While Matthews had a close short-handed attempt following a pass from Mitch Marner, both teams failed to produce in the first 13 minutes of play.
Just as the Leafs exited the penalty kill, William Nylander caused a turnover at centre ice. His pass down the right side of the offensive zone provided Domi the position to shoot the puck between Allen’s glove and left pad, giving the boys in blue the 3-1 lead.
Yet, the hostility continued to unravel as Arber Xhekaj received a four-minute minor for high-sticking Nick Robertson above the shoulders. On the same play, Robertson’s anger proved relentless as he acquired a two-minute minor for slashing Xhekaj in the shin.
With 12 seconds remaining in the period, Monahan’s pass across the front of the net set up Dach for a short-handed goal. Kovacevic also received an assist on the play.
John Tavares’ second goal of the night (assisted by Sam Lafferty and Liljegren) nearly halfway through the third period positioned the Leafs with a 4-2 lead. However, it was three unanswered goals that cost the home team the win.
Leafs on the Power-Play
The Leafs had five power-play chances throughout the game, scoring once. They also allowed a shorthanded goal.
Keefe emphasized the lack of game time together in the very early going as an important factor.
“There’s lots to work through, that’s really, you know, second preseason game for a lot of those guys that are on that power-play and first time together with the four forwards in particular,” Keefe said.
“Getting back into that in terms of the things that Guy [Boucher] wants them to focus on – I thought we’ll take away a lot of positives with the power-play today except that we didn’t score enough. We had some really good scoring opportunities and didn’t get over the line.”
NOTES: Toronto will play Montréal in their home opener on Oct. 11 … Canadiens will play Chicago in their home opener on Oct. 14 … Leafs next game is Thursday against Detroit while the Canadiens take on Ottawa this Saturday … Leafs outhit Canadiens 31-25 … Matthew Knies has two goals, three assists in four preseason games … Leafs announced 27 players sent to the American Hockey League prior to start time.