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Leafs get depth scoring, beat Habs 3-2

MONTREAL – Sheldon Keefe thought the players on his top line “weren’t very good” on Saturday night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs pulled out two points anyway, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at a raucous Bell Centre thanks to some depth players stepping up — including Bobby McMann.

“That’s a night where the group picked them up,” the head coach said of the Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Tyler Bertuzzi top trio. “We needed some big efforts from guys and Bobby certainly stepped up for us.”

McMann scored Toronto’s first goal, tying the game 39 seconds into the second to get the Maple Leafs back on track after a disorganized first period that saw Montreal jump out to a 1-0 lead.

“I just thought he played an outstanding game with lots of confidence,” Keefe said. “He was just strong, hard on the puck, lots of urgency to his game. I thought their team had a hard time handling him. It was a really good showing for him.”

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Max Domi had a goal and an assist while John Tavares scored the game-winner with 6:46 left in the third period for Toronto (37-19-8). Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves.

The Maple Leafs were also missing star forward Mitch Marner for the first time this season due to a lower-body injury.

“Some great moments of really good goals at key times,” Keefe said. “Otherwise, we just stayed with it. Thought we got some saves from Sammy, battled real hard.”

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Mike Matheson — with a goal and an assist — and Alex Newhook replied for Montreal (24-30-10). Juraj Slafkovsky pitched in with two assists and Sam Montembeault stopped 24 shots.

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The Canadiens felt they played a strong game even though that won’t show up in the standings.

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“They’re a great team over there with a lot of superstar power and I thought we were solid against it all night,” Matheson said. “The competitor in me is still frustrated to play that well against a team like that and not come away with a win.”

It was the first game between the two historic rivals since the Maple Leafs pulled off a late comeback to beat the Canadiens 6-5 in a shootout to open the season on Oct. 11 in Toronto.

Fans of both teams showed out in full force, with competing “Go Leafs Go!” and “Go Habs Go!” chants throughout the evening.

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“Any time we play Montreal it’s always really special between these two clubs and what’s been going on for over 100 years,” Tavares said. “I think as players you sense that and feel that.”

The Canadiens tied the game 5:05 into the period courtesy of a power-play goal from Newhook.

The Maple Leafs, however, regained the advantage after Jake McCabe’s one-timer hit Montembeault’s pad and deflected off Tavares in front of the net.

Toronto forward Calle Jarnkrok took a tripping penalty with three minutes left to send Montreal on the power play. The Canadiens couldn’t find the equalizer despite some sustained time in the Maple Leafs zone.

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“Perhaps my favourite part of the game is our penalty kill gives one up again, which evens the game, and then it’s tested with the game on the line and had to come through in that moment, and it did,” Keefe said.

Matheson gave the home fans a reason to cheer early by opening the scoring 38 seconds into the game with a gorgeous goal that blew the roof off.

The 30-year-old defenceman is up to 46 points in 64 games this season.

“He was all over the ice,” St. Louis said. “He was the best player on the ice.”

McMann responded early in the second, capitalizing on a bobbled puck by Arber Xhekaj at the blue line and firing a shot past Montembeault.

Domi gave Toronto the lead with 1:19 left in the period. Jarnkrok floated a pass from the defensive zone that found Domi streaking through the neutral zone before the former Hab scored his eighth.

“That was like a Tom Brady pass by ‘Jarny,’” Domi said. “Might’ve been like a Randy Moss kind of thing, but I just took off.”

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Defenceman Joel Edmundson — who played three seasons for the Canadiens from 2020 to 2023 — and forward Connor Deward made their Maple Leaf debuts after being acquired before Friday’s trade deadline.

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Both players received positive reviews from Keefe, and Samsonov is especially happy to have Edmundson’s six-foot-five frame guarding the net.

“Not a lot of guys want to go to the net right now,” Samsonov said. “It’s good. It’s good for me, it’s good for us.”

UP NEXT

Canadiens: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Maple Leafs: Wrap up a three-game road trip Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2024.

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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