Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer, right, lets in a shot by Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec, not shown, as Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk, left, looks on during the third period Saturday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
The Maple Leafs spotted the Montreal Canadiens a 2-0 early in the first
period and although Toronto battled to get back to even it wound up being in a losing effort as Montreal won 4-3, writes Mike Brophy.
Another bad start; another defeat.
That has been a common theme were the Toronto Maple Leafs have been concerned of late.
On Saturday the Maple Leafs spotted the Montreal Canadiens a 2-0 early in the first period and although Toronto battled to get back to even - twice, in fact - it wound up being in a losing effort as Montreal won 4-3.
Make that four consecutive regulation defeats for the Maple Leafs. They try to snap the streak Sunday when they meet the Devils in New Jersey.
"It's obviously something we'd like to change," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle of his team's awful starts. "I think the turnovers at times cost us and then we cleaned that up and started to get more of our game going from a fore-checking standpoint which created more offensive zone time. We clawed back into the game and then we take a penalty in the third and give up a goal. That was the game."
Left-winger James van Riemsdyk took the Maple Leafs first penalty of the game at 9:14 of the third period, a goaltending interference call, and that enabled the Canadiens to regain the lead.
Technically it was not a power play goal as it came at 11:14, but it might as well have been as van Riemsdyk had no chance to get back into the play.
Carlyle was not upset with van Riemsdyk for taking the penalty.
"I don't think you can change that; it's part of his make-up," the coach said. "If you notice all those guys that make a living in front of the net are going to take some penalties. I have never actually seen him deliberately run a goalie."
The crowd offered a huge cheer when it was announced Bolland was back in the lineup. Although there were plenty of Habs fans at ACC, when it was announced P. K. Subban was in the starting lineup, that was greeted and an equally huge boo. Of course Subban was booed whenever he touched the puck.
Bolland, of course, had not played since Nov. 2 when he suffered a lacerated tendon. He made an immediate impact upon his return leading all skaters from both teams with three hits in the first period including a dandy on Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk at 10:45.
All told Bolland played 16 shifts for 9:01 ice time. He had one shot on goal, three hits and won eight of nine faceoffs.
"I think (Sunday) will be a real tough game for him," Carlyle said, "in the back-to-back and having to travel tonight. That's why he did all the laps and hard work with our conditioning people.
Toronto's Phil Kessel gave the puck away at centre which allowed the Canadiens to break away two-on-one. After a pass from David Desharnais to Max Pacioretty, the Habs pulled ahead 1-0. Toronto goalie James Reimer was too deep in his net to stop Pacioretty's shot.
A little more than a minute later the Habs pulled ahead 2-0 when Rene Bourque scored an identical goal beating Reimer to his stick side.
Practice makes perfect
Nobody on the Maple Leafs works harder on their shot than Joffrey Lupul and his special attention to detail paid dividends midway through the first period when he notched his 20th goal of the season. Lupul drilled a one-timer high into the Montreal net on goalie Carey Price's glove side.
Toronto's best goal-scorer has also been known to make a nifty pass or two and Saturday was no exception. Standing at the side of the Montreal net with the puck, Kessel spied centre Tyler Bozak open on the other side and dished a perfect pass that Bozak snapped in for his 16th of the season.
Bad puck luck
The visitors took a 3-2 lead at 19:08 when captain Brian Gionta's shot hit Toronto defenceman Tim Gleason's stick and deflected past Reimer who had no chance on the play.
The second period was uneventful other than Toronto defencemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly both drilling shots off the post after joining the rush.
Kadri checks in
Centre Nazem Kadri, who hadn't scored in six games, tied the game at 2:49 of the third period when he took a pass from Lupul at the side of the net and scored his 18th of the season - a power play goal.
Veteran referee Greg Kimmerly worked his 1,000th NHL game Saturday and was honoured before the contest with gifts from the league and from both teams. His wife and children were on the ice with him.
The Maple Leafs polled 4,000 fans asking who was the most handsome player of all-time and the winner was Joffrey Lupul.
The Maple Leafs and Canadiens set a record for attendance for an NHL game at ACC Saturday with 19,789 on hand.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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