Leafs outlast undisciplined Canadiens
In front a class of former greats awaiting enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, the Toronto Maple Leafs used a dominant power-play performance to dispose of the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.
The Leafs scored three power-play goals to defeat the undisciplined Canadiens 6-3 in the 2008 Hall of Fame Game.
Winger Niklas Hagman led the way for Toronto with a pair of goals, while Nik Antropov chipped in with a goal and two assists. Mikhail Grabovski contributed with a goal and another helper, giving him six goals and two assists in the last four games.
"He's been our best player for two weeks," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "He's been a dominant player. That's why he's got seven goals now."
Grabovski was gracious when asked about his time in Montreal, but Hagman admitted his teammate was revved up to prove something to his former team.
"For sure he wanted to show the coach and show the other players on the team that he is a good player," Hagman said. "I think that he did a pretty good job."
The game featured past stars in anticipation of their induction for Monday's Hall of Fame ceremony.
This year's class includes former Edmonton Oiler Glenn Anderson, Russian great Igor Larionov, former NHL linesman Ray Scapinello and former Western Canadian Hockey League president Ed Chynoweth, who passed away in April.
Losing streak snapped
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Toronto (6-5-4), which was coming off a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
The Leafs took the game to the Canadiens from the outset, outshooting their rivals by a convincing 40-21. Montreal (8-2-2) dropped its second consecutive game, allowing the Leafs eight power-play chances on the night.
Robert Lang, Tomas Plekanec and captain Saku Koivu scored for the Canadiens.
Toronto opened up a 1-0 lead during a five-minute power play at 8:12. Grabovski made a nice move around Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov and slipped a pass to Hagman, who beat Price between the legs.
"He's playing well," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said of Grabovski. "Good for him."
The power play came as the result of a vicious hit by Montreal winger Tom Kostopoulos on Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn. Kostopoulos drove Van Ryn's head into the glass, causing a cut to his forehead. Kostopoulos was ejected from game with a boarding major.
"It was a dirty hit," said Leafs forward Matt Stajan. "It's something that can't happen in the game. Luckily, we made them pay."
Broken finger, concussion
Though he was able to skate to the dressing room, Van Ryn was taken to hospital in a stretcher wearing a neck brace as a precaution.Hockey Night In Canada reported that Van Ryn broke his finger and nose while also suffering a concussion.
Kostopoulos visibly shaken when approached by reporters after the game, and said he plans to call Van Ryn apologize.
"I was trying to get in there, get a hit and get the puck," said Kostopoulos. "Like I said, I didn't anticipate him turning and I couldn't stop myself. And I hope he's all right."
The Leafs took a two-goal advantage 1:48 into the second when Grabovski raised a shot from the slot over Price's shoulder.
The Canadiens responded more than three minutes later with their first power-play goal of the game. Lang controlled the rebound in front of the Leaf net with his skate before tapping the easy rebound past goaltender Vesa Toskala.
Toronto's third goaltender interference penalty of the second gave the Canadiens another power-play goal at 9:59. Plekanec took a cross-ice feed from Sergei Kostitsyn and fired a shot into the open side of the net.
The goals continued to come in a flurry with the teams exchanging tallies 1:09 apart.
After Hagman's redirect on the power play gave the Leafs a short-lived lead at 11:39, Koivu pulled his team even moments later, driving the puck to the far side of Toskala.
Toronto regained its one-goal lead on a delayed Montreal penalty with less than four minutes remaining in the second. With heavy traffic around the Montreal net, Antropov was finally able to jar the puck loose in the crease and slip it by Price.
The Leafs third power-play marker came just 1:13 into the third period. Defenceman Pavel Kubina moved in from the point and one-timed a shot over Price.
Alexei Ponikarovsky finished the scoring with his fourth goal of the season at 16:32.
"We really wanted that game," Stajan said. "That's how we've got to play every game, come out with an edge and really take it to them. Even when they came back there, we never gave up.
"You know, we're proving to everybody — we know in here that we can play with any team in this league. There's no doubt about it, that's one of the best teams in the league."
With files from the Canadian Press