Preview: Maple Leafs at Canadiens
The Toronto Maple Leafs avoided another collapse by beating Anaheim in overtime and look to ride that momentum 24 hours later when they visit the rival Montreal Canadiens for an Atlantic Division showdown Saturday night. The Maple Leafs coughed up a two-goal lead and gave up another with 58 seconds left in regulation Friday, but newly acquired goalie Jack Campbell made 26 saves and captain John Tavares scored 4:53 into OT for a 5-4 win.
Toronto snapped a two-game slide with its fourth win in six outings and moved into third place in the Atlantic Division, one point clear of Florida and six ahead of Montreal as the Maple Leafs prepare to play four of the next six on the road. The Canadiens have won the last three meetings, including a 6-5 shootout victory Oct. 5 in Toronto and a 5-2 triumph at home three weeks later, and are 8-3-0 in the past 11 contests to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Montreal allowed 37 shots on net Thursday, but Carey Price turned aside 35 of them and defenseman Jeff Petry scored 25 seconds into overtime to give the Canadiens a 3-2 victory over Anaheim to move within six points of the second wild-card spot. “A win’s a win,” Petry told reporters after recording his eighth goal of the season. “Obviously we want to play the right way and there’s things we need to clean up and do better, but at this point of the year and the situation we’re in we’ll take any win any way we can get them.”
TIME: 7 p.m. ET. TV: NHL Network, CBC, TVA, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet Pacific
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (29-19-7): Tavares finished with two goals Friday and has four to go along with two assists in the last three contests while linemate Mitch Marner had three assists and boasts a seven-game point streak. Center Auston Matthews leads the team with 68 points after matching his career high (2016-17) with his 40th goal of the season Friday and adding three assists with six shots and a plus-2 rating. Right wing William Nylander (25 goals, 49 points), who has strung together a nine-game point streak in which he has scored six times, missed the game against Anaheim because of illness and is questionable.
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (26-23-7): Montreal could get a boost from the return of left wing Jonathan Drouin to the lineup Saturday as the 24-year-old is close to a return after being out since Nov. 15 because of a wrist surgery. “There are still little things that bother me,” Drouin, who had 15 points in 19 games before going on injured reserve, told the Montreal Gazette. “I still feel good and I’m getting closer to a comeback. We will see (Saturday) morning. It was a good day (Friday).” Left wing Tomas Tatar, who has been bothered by a flu bug going through the locker room, recorded eight of his team-high 51 points in the last six games.
1. Canadiens RW Brendan Gallagher has three of his 18 goals in the last five games and is third on the team with 36 points.
2. Toronto LW Kyle Clifford, acquired from Los Angeles on Thursday, had two shots and three hits in 12 minutes, 3 seconds of ice time in his team debut Friday.
3. Montreal’s rookie F Nick Suzuki has registered two goals and five assists in his last six contests.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3