Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Ilya Kovalchuk – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia
Jonathan Drouin – Max Domi – Artturi Lehkonen
Nick Cousins – Nate Thompson – Jake Evans
Ben Chiarot – Victor Mete
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Marco Scandella – Xavier Ouellet
Carey Price – Charlie Lindgren
Jordan Weal (flu), Dale Weise, Christian Folin
Paul Byron, Shea Weber
There’s no doubt about it. Ilya Kovalchuk’s enthusiasm is positively infectious. On a night when Canadiens offence was stuck in neutral for the first two periods, the exciting overtime win he helped provide was a pleasant, unexpected ending.
For the first 40 minutes in, the high-octane Leafs were trapping the Canadiens, choking off any threats. Going into the second intermission, Toronto was outshooting the Habs 21-11. The shoot-from-anywhere Canadiens were content to take a tight-checking, all-men back approach to this game.
That is, until the Maple Leafs scored just a minute into the third period. Kovalchuk made a lazy turn in the Toronto zone setting up a 3-on-2 rush for the visitors.
That’s the way it stayed for most of the third frame with the Canadiens ramping up their offensive effort. With just two-and-a-half minutes left, Marco Scandella, who had struggled most of the game, fired a point shot past Jack Campbell with Nick Suzuki providing the screen.
It was Scandella’s first goal in a Canadiens jersey, with the hometown guy scoring in dramatic fashion. But then, it was Kovalchuk’s turn to complete the Habs storybook ending against a historic rival.
Perhaps missed in the leadup to Kovalchuk’s game-winner was a play made by Carey Price to start the rush. Price saved a heavy shot from Tyson Barrie using his blocker to create a lead pass to Nick Suzuki. It was the perfect ending to a brilliant game from Price, who was leaned on heavily in the opening 40 minutes.
After a quiet night, Canadiens fans finally had something to celebrate.
For most of the game, the cheers were led by Maple Leafs fans, filling so many of the seats typically left empty by Habs fans at the Bell Centre this season. Geoff Molson, who loves to stifle the criticism of reporters, could do nothing to silence the “Go Leafs Go” chants.
The Canadiens will be back at the Bell Centre at 10:00 am. on Sunday for the annual skills competition. The Arizona Coyotes will be in Montreal on Monday night to face the Habs.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry, Nick Suzuki
▼ Jonathan Drouin, Victor Mete