Jonathan Bernier took a costly penalty in the overtime frame, and Max Pacioretty scored his second of the game to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs both battled back from a two-goal deficit and coughed up a late lead to lose their second consecutive game in OT since coming back from the Olympic break. James van Riemsdyk scored two, and Kessel had a goal and an assist while Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves. Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, PK Subban scored in regulation for the Canadiens, while Peter Budaj made 22 saves.
The Leafs began the game line-matching against the Canadiens. After the top line played a mere two seconds, the Leafs second line took to the ice keeping in line. David Clarkson chipped the puck into the corner and laid a terrific hit on Habs’ defender PK Subban. Fans expecting a chippy game between the two rivals would be unpleasantly surprised, as calmer heads prevailed throughout tonight’s tilt.
Dion Phaneuf took a marginal tripping call 2:39 into the game, getting his stick caught in between David Desharnais’ leg deep in the Leafs zone. Two offsides and a high-stick by the Canadiens helped kill time, and the Leafs successfully cleared the zone three times to keep the score knotted 0-0.
The Leafs didn’t record a shot on net in the first 14 minutes of play, which has probably been written in too many game recaps this season. Making matters worse, the Leafs failed to record a shot during a power play near the midway mark of the frame. Fancy, stretch and cross-ice passes proved fruitless against the Habs’ PKers, who intercepted them with aplomb. The best (only) chance was a shorthanded one for Tomas Plekanec.
After the Leafs won a faceoff and didn’t clear the D zone, Alex Galchenyuk corralled the puck in, took an easy wrister on net that eluded Bernier. It appeared that Bernier was screened by Plekanec, to give Montreal a 1 – 0 lead. This was on the heels of the Habs controlling the O zone for about a minute on the prior shift. The ice looked tilted.
About a minute after that, the Leafs were again hemmed in their zone and Max Pacioretty spun away from his cover and lofted a backhander past Bernier’s glove to make it 2 – 0 for Montreal.
The Leafs managed its first shot of the period with 5:29 remaining in the first, and had two chances (one from Kessel, one from Lupul) that looked dangerous thereafter.
After Kessel found van Riemsdyk with a stretch pass to enter the Montreal zone, the puck came back to Phil at the left wing side boards. Kessel fired a low shot that van Riemsdyk tipped in tight that trickled between Peter Budaj’s legs to bring the score to 2 – 1. Dion Phaneuf got the other assist on the goal.
Despite the JvR tally, it was all Montreal through the first 20. The Leafs looked lucky to be down only a goal, being outshot 14-6.
The Leafs played the first five minutes of the second a lot better than the first 20 minutes. Part of that was lineup selections. Though it started after the second Canadiens goal, the second period saw Kulemin and Clarkson switch lines. Both Kadri and Lupul seem to be more effective with the Russian winger.
In general, the Leafs were better able to control the puck and keep the puck on the Canadiens side of centre ice. The Leafs narrowed the shot deficit and seemed to set the pace of play.
David Desharnais took a marginal tripping penalty on Dion Phaneuf, and the league’s third best got its second chance on the power play. Unlike the first attempt, this power play was a shooting gallery, with both the first and second units getting chances. Like the first attempt, the Leafs didn’t score. Phil Kessel had a puck roll on him that would have tied the game.
Doug Murray wired a shot that glanced off the crossbar and out of play near the halfway mark of the frame, and for about 4 minutes, neither team got a shot. He really is an offensive blackhole.
The best sustained chances came from the reunited Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin line with about two minutes remaining in the second. The speed and awareness of all three (and Carl Gunnarsson as a rover) confounded a tired Habs line. The trio appeared particularly effective along the goal line, tiring defenders down low.
On the other side, I’m not 100% on Raymond and Clarkson playing together. Both seem to hold onto the puck for a moment too long, which also seems to neutralize Peter Holland’s value as a distributor.
Danny Briere took a very foolish interference call with 18 seconds remaining in the second, which led to a glorious missed chance by Morgan Rielly. Kadri saw the first year defender sneak down to the top of the left wing circle, but his pass was deflected by a Canadiens defender and skipped just past Rielly. Rielly looked dangerous with the puck on all three Leaf power plays through 40, but the score remained 2 – 1 in favour of the Canadiens.
Dion Phaneuf led all skaters with 19:59 of ice time through two periods. The Leafs outshot the Habs 7 – 5, but trailed 19 – 13 at the end of the second period.
The Leafs started the third down a goal and with a 1:43 of power play time on fresh ice. James van Riemsdyk was again in Peter Budaj’s kitchen. Van Riemsdyk had an amazing backhand between the legs pass through the crease to Kessel sneaking in from the left wing, but Budaj leapt across the net to stone the American sniper. Such a beautiful play, it deserved a better result.
Moments later, Budaj would stand on his again, foiling Kulemin and Gleason before covering up the puck and stopping Clarkson from potting a rebound. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, that was some stellar netminding.
The pace of play picked up, and so too did the physicality. Nazem Kadri eventually tripped up Dale Weise in a scary looking footrace. Kadri’s skate clipped Weise in the face as both players crashed into the end boards. Weise left for repairs and Kadri to the sin bin four and half minutes into the third.
On the ensuing Habs power play, Andrei Markov sent an errant pass to the right wing boards that banked out of the zone van Riemsdyk intercepted. The Flying Dutchman outskated PK Subban, went to his backhand and tucked the puck through Budaj’s wickets to the bring the game even at 2s. The goal was unassisted and van Riemsdyk’s second goal of the game and second shorthanded goal of the season. This guy is amazing and now has 26 goals on the year. The Leafs also killed the penalty.
1:15 later, Kessel took a pass from Bozak just outside the Canadiens blueline on a seemingly broken play. Kessel turned on the jets, catching the Habs defenders flat footed, got behind them, and wristed a beautiful shot up over Budaj’s blocker to give the Leafs a 3 – 2 lead. The goal was Kessel’s 33rd of the year. Bozak picked up the lone assist on the play, a gorgeous and lucky no-look backhand pass to Kessel right on the tape for his third primary assist in the past two games.
Tim Gleason squeezed Brian Gionta too tightly, apparently, along the boards with 9:24 remaining in the third. Markov set PK Subban up for the one-timer, and the Olympic Gold Medalist made no mistake, firing a bullet that slipped just under Jonathan Bernier’s blocker, bringing the game even at 3-3. Thereafter, the Habs seemed reenergized for the final half of the frame.
Markov tripped up a streaking van Riemsdyk, who tried to sell the call too earnestly. Perhaps foreshadowing the OT period, a fast-paced but indecisive 4-on-4 followed.
As the period wore on, you got the sense that both coaches were more than willing to let an odd-man rush decide this game. The final five minutes of play saw both teams trade chances up and down in the fastest sequence of the entire game.
With 30 seconds left in the third, a pressured Kessel flipped the puck over the glass taking a delay of game penalty. Uh oh…
…With a minute and a half of power play time in OT, the Habs set up a shooting gallery in the Leafs zone with Subban as the trigger man. Jay McClement blocked a shot and sent the puck down the sheet twice to keep the Leafs alive.
Kessel and Kulemin combined for a chance, and Lupul missed the net on a 2-on-1 with Kadri. Danny Briere outskated and then outmuscled Dion Phaneuf (actually), but was denied by a quick left leg by Bernier.
Bernier then slid out to challenge an open puck against Briere and took a rare goalie delay of game penalty. Max Pacioretty got a terrific feed from Markov on the power play and roofed it passed a sprawling Bernier. Game over. Rough ending to an exciting game.
Good call in OT even if it does sound stupid. pic.twitter.com/4pYeaemwKR
— Marc De Acetis (@MarcDeAcetis) March 2, 2014
The stakes for the game were simple: the Leafs had a chance to tie the Canadiens with 73 points through 62 games played. Instead, they fall to three points back of the Habs, while five teams just behind the Leafs in the standings collected points. It was also disconcerting that Bernier had another shaky night in net, and had a boneheaded play cost the Leafs a goal. Equally distressing is the fact that the Leafs coughed up a 19th third period lead this season and surrendered two power play goals in the final 12 minutes of play. While the top line has been contributing, it was also worrisome to see the Leafs scoring depth not show up in a key situation.
The Maple Leafs will return home to play a key matchup against one of the many dogs at its heels, the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’ll be the final matchup for the Leafs prior to the trade deadline.
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||2||0||2||1||2||3||0||0||2||0||50%||3:51:00||1:20:00||21:14:00|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|45||J. Bernier (L)||26 - 30||0.867||2||63:28:00|