‘They were much more desperate than us,’ Leafs’ Auston Matthews says


Former Canadien Alex Galchenyuk’s gaffe early in overtime allows Montreal to claw it’s way back into the series with a 4-3 win.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs could not finish off the Canadiens at home Thursday night. That means they’ll now have to win their third straight game at the Bell Centre to advance in the North Division semifinal.

And they’ll have to accomplish that Saturday night before 2,500 spectators in Montreal — or the teams will return to Toronto on Monday for a seventh and deciding game.

“You always want to close out a (series) at home, but it’s hard to beat a team four times in a row,” Zach Hyman said following Toronto’s 4-3 overtime loss Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.

The Leafs overcame a three-goal second-period deficit, scoring the only two goals of the third period — when they dominated Montreal, outshooting the visitors 16-6.

Although the Canadiens were facing elimination, they came out quickly in overtime. A turnover by former Canadien Alex Galchenyuk in the offensive zone on a blind pass resulted in a two-man breakaway for Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki — the latter beating Jack Campbell after only 59 seconds.

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Galchenyuk, selected third overall by Montreal in 2012, was one of Toronto’s heroes on Tuesday, scoring a goal into the empty net and adding two assists in a 4-0 victory. But on Thursday, he showed why the Leafs are his seventh NHL organization.

“You want the player to be aware of the mistake,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “That in itself is pretty obvious. Being aware of what was available there and what the better play was. You park it and move on. Hockey’s a game of mistakes. It happens. You have to push on.

“When you’re playing better as a team and mistakes happen, they don’t seem to hurt you,” he added. “When you’re not playing well and make mistakes, you open the door for the opposition. Those mistakes cost you.”

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Campbell, the 29-year-old veteran — but a playoff neophyte as a starter — could not match the calm and poised play he has demonstrated throughout the first four games of the series. Coming off the first shutout in the playoffs by a Leaf against the Canadiens since Johnny Bower in 1967, Campbell stopped only 26 of 30 shots for a .867 save percentage.

And he pointed the finger squarely at himself.

“I can’t give up three in regulation,” he said. “I have to be better — and I will be. Tonight, it wasn’t my best.”

Campbell couldn’t be faulted for not stopping Suzuki in overtime, considering the number of passes between the two Montreal players without a Leafs defenceman in sight.

And yet …

“I just have to make the save on that,” Campbell said. “I was a little aggressive. I’ll learn from it.”

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Injured Leafs captain John Tavares was in the building for the first time in the series following his opening-game knee injury and concussion when Corey Perry’s knee made contact with his head. But even his presence wasn’t enough to lift Toronto.

The Canadiens came out strong and dominated the first period, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Joel Armia while outshooting the Leafs 14-8.

“We didn’t come out with nearly enough urgency or jump to start with,” Auston Matthews said. “Obviously, they were much more desperate than us. They played well. We gave ourselves a chance. We just came up short.”

Matthews led the NHL this season with 41 goals. And while he has four points through five games, he has only one goal and hasn’t scored since the second game. Hyman, the left-winger on the Matthews line with Mitch Marner, scored Toronto’s first goal on Thursday — his first point of the series. Marner, meanwhile, has four assists.

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“Any time your backs are against the wall you push back,” Hyman said. “You saw that from them tonight. We’ve been in that situation before. You always respond. It’s another big test for us Saturday and we’ll look to bounce back.”

Other than the Leafs’ slow start, they played well. Wayne Simmonds hit the post early and Carey Price made repeated big saves throughout the game, denying Marner and Hyman on breakaways. He also stymied Alex Kerfoot and William Nylander repeatedly. Nylander, with four goals in the series, again was Toronto’s best player.

“He’s a great goalie and he’s doing his job,” Hyman said. “He’s been playing really well in this series, obviously. We have to make his life difficult.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

twitter.com/HerbZurkowsky1

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