Preview: Maple Leafs at Canadiens
The Toronto Maple Leafs have matched the Montreal Canadiens by winning three straight contests to remain one point ahead of their Original Six rival for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs look to defeat the Canadiens for the sixth straight time on Saturday night when the clubs meet at Bell Centre.
Auston Matthews continued to pay immediate dividends after signing a five-year, $58.17 million contract extension on Tuesday, scoring a goal in Toronto's 5-4 victory versus Ottawa the following night to boost his point total to five (four goals, one assist) in his last five games. The 21-year-old Matthews has tormented Montreal in his short career with nine goals and 11 points in eight meetings, including capping a two-goal performance by scoring 1:01 into overtime of a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens in the season opener. Montreal improved to 8-1-1 in its last 10 games following Thursday's 5-2 win over Winnipeg, with Jonathan Drouin scoring two goals and setting up two others for his first career four-point performance. The 23-year-old Quebec native has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his last three contests while linemates Phillip Danault (three goals, four assists during a four-game point streak) and Brendan Gallagher (two goals, three assists in his last two outings) have also excelled.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBC, Sportsnet1 (Toronto), CITY, TVAS (Montreal)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (33-17-3): John Tavares recorded his 17th multi-point performance after scoring and setting up a goal for the second time in as many outings. The 28-year-old hit the ground running right out of the chute, scoring in the first game versus Montreal before adding five goals and four assists in his next four contests. Morgan Rielly tallied in the third period versus the Senators to lead all NHL defensemen in even-strength goals (13) and even-strength points (38).
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (31-18-6): Carey Price extended his winning streak to seven games for the fifth time in his career after turning aside 32 shots against the Jets. The former Hart and Vezina Trophy recipient has posted a 1.43 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in that stretch heading into the tilt versus Toronto, against which he owns a 23-14-3 mark with four shutouts in 40 career encounters. Max Domi, the son of former Maple Leafs agitator Tie Domi, set up two goals versus Toronto in the season opener and leads Montreal in assists (30) and points (47).
1. Montreal rookie C Jesperi Kotkaniemi is the first 18-year-old to score in four consecutive games since Sean Monahan accomplished the feat with Calgary in 2013-14.
2. Toronto LW Andreas Johnsson has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last two contests overall and 21 (11 goals, 10 assists) of his 26 points on home ice.
3. Canadiens LW Artturi Lehkonen, who scored in the first game versus the Maple Leafs, last tallied on Dec. 28.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3