The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped a 5-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night and lost for the first time against their longtime rivals this season. The Canadiens were clearly the hungrier team after losing the last matchup between the two sides 6-0, just over two weeks ago.
While there weren’t too many pretty goals in this one, Montreal was definitely the better squad and deserve full marks for the win. With the loss the Leafs now fall five points back of the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference standings.
Here are a few things that stood out from the game.
Not a strong effort by the Blue and White
Unlike their games at the Bell Centre earlier this year, the Leafs came out very sluggish and couldn’t match the pace of Montreal. The Canadiens were winning all the battles for loose pucks and the Leafs were very fortunate to go ahead 1-0 on a bit of a fluke goal by Frazer McLaren. From there Montreal took over and out shot the Leafs 28-12 after two periods. Ben Scrivens kept it close for a bit, but the Canadiens scored three unanswered goals in the third to seal the deal. The shots ended up finishing 40-23 for Montreal.
Rough game for Dion Phaneuf
Phaneuf had been playing better of late as he had posted nine points in his previous nine games with a plus-1 rating, but this outing was one I’m sure he would like to forget. Phaneuf finished as a minus-3 and had several turnovers in the neutral zone that led to odd-man rushes for Montreal. On Max Pacioretty’s back-breaking goal that made it 4-2, Phaneuf couldn’t handle a bouncing puck and the big Canadiens forward scooped it up and made no mistake off the rush. His play with the puck tonight was far too casual.
Leafs’ top line was a factor, in a bad way
The line of Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, and Phil Kessel stood out for the wrong reasons against Montreal. The three were a combined minus-12 and were on the ice for every Canadiens even strength goal. Bozak lost concentration on a face-off that the linesman appeared to drop when he wasn’t ready, which led to a go-ahead goal by Montreal. Then Kessel gave the puck away just outside the Leaf blueline as Scrivens was leaving for an extra attacker, giving Brian Gionta one of the easiest goals he will ever score. And James van Riemsdyk was invisible tonight, just as he was in the last two games.
Penalty Kill a lone bright spot
If there was a positive to take from tonight’s game, it was that the Leaf penalty kill continues to look sharp. Mike Brown took a five-minute major for a hit from behind, and although the Canadiens did score once, it was with just six seconds left in the man advantage on an unfortunate bounce of Pacioretty’s leg. Toronto, very similar to Monday night’s effort against the Philadelphia Flyers, was aggressive while a man short and gave Montreal little time to set up in the offensive zone.