Greybeards help Leafs take a commanding lead over Canadiens


Joe Thornton, 41, becomes oldest player in club’s history to score a playoff goal. Linemate, Jason Spezza, 37, adds a goal and assist.

Article content

Knowing they’d be forced to play two games in as many nights when they arrived in Montreal, the Maple Leafs, as an organization, probably would have settled for a split, knowing they’d have regained home-ice advantage in their North Division series.

Instead, after winning on Monday, 41-year-old Joe Thornton became the oldest player in Leafs history to score a playoff goal Tuesday. His linemate, Jason Spezza, a relative youngster at 37, added a goal and assist.

And Jack Campbell blocked 32 shots to record the shutout in the Leafs’ 4-0 victory over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead heading into Thursday night’s fifth game in Toronto.

Campbell became the first Leafs goaltender since Johnny Bower to blank the Canadiens in the playoffs. Bower was 42 years old on April 22, 1967, when he made 31 saves in a 3-0 victory at the Forum in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Thornton admitted he and his teammates would have been happy splitting these two games in Montreal. But, following Monday’s 2-1 win, Thornton said the team became greedy.

“We felt great tonight, we really did,” said Thornton, who has never won the Cup over his long and distinguished career. “We wanted to grab two after the win (Monday) night. (Campbell) gave us that opportunity. It was nice to get greedy and get the second one.”

With back-to-back games, Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe made two lineup changes, inserting defenceman Travis Dermott for Rasmus Sandin along with centre Adam Brooks for Riley Nash. Brooks played between Thornton and Spezza.

While neither Brooks nor Dermott contributed a point, the Leafs’ depth came through on a night when Auston Matthews, the NHL’s goal-scoring leader this season, failed to produce a point for the second consecutive game.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“This time of year depth’s important,” Thornton conceded. “It’s up to us in the bottom six to help and chip in.”

But Thornton and Spezza weren’t alone.

William Nylander scored for the fourth consecutive game, matching the longest streak by a Toronto player in the NHL’s modern era, going back to 1943-44. To put this into perspective, Nylander has scored as many goals himself as the entire Canadiens roster.

“He has led the way,” Spezza said of Nylander. “He has shown a lot of determination. His board battles are second to none. He’s showing poise with the puck, which is hard to do at this time of year. He’s vocal on the bench and has taken a leadership role.”

Nylander’s centre, Alex Kerfoot — replacing injured captain John Tavares — contributed three assists, giving him a goal and five points in the series.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“He’s a very competitive guy, hard on the pucks,” Thornton said of Kerfoot. “This time of year brings out the best in him. He’s stepped up when we’ve had injuries and really filled the void. That’s what you need this time of year. He doesn’t get enough credit for how hard he is. I expected him to raise his game — and he has. He’s a great contributor who goes under the radar.”

This night also belonged to former Canadien Alex Galchenyuk, the left-winger on the line with Kerfoot and Nylander.

Galchenyuk scored once, into an empty net, while adding two assists. A former third-overall draft choice of the Canadiens in 2012, the 27-year-old has worn out his welcome in more than one port of call; the Leafs are his sixth NHL organization. Indeed, the 6-foot-1, 207 pounder was playing for the AHL Toronto Marlies earlier this season and was a healthy scratch in the opening-game of this series. In 26 regular-season games for the Leafs, he produced four goals and 12 points.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

This was the first three-point playoff game of his career. Galchenyuk said it meant little coming against Montreal — the win was more important. And, considering all the teams for which he has played, he’d have plenty of animosity if he elected to hold grudges.

Keefe said Galchenyuk has displayed drive, desire and passion since arriving in Toronto.

“He has played well and come a long way,” Keefe said. “He certainly contributed to our team’s success and has performed well. I reassured him he was going to play and was going to be an important part of it.

“Obviously he was a major difference maker for us tonight.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HerbZurkowsky1

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.





Source link

Related posts

Leave a Comment