MONTREAL — Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored at 15:15 of time beyond regulation because the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Saturday to pressure a seventh and deciding recreation of their first-round playoff sequence.
Corey Perry and Tyler Toffoli had the objectives in regulation for Montreal. Carey Worth made 41 saves inside an electrical Bell Centre — the primary Canadian hockey crowd for the reason that begin of the COVID-19 pandemic practically 15 months in the past.
Along with his group struggling to generate something within the further interval — Montreal was outshot 13-2 — Kotkaniemi ripped his third of the playoffs glove aspect from the excessive slot after Toronto defenceman Travis Dermott, who was within the lineup for Rasmus Sandin after a tough Recreation 5, turned the puck over to Paul Byron alongside the boards within the Leafs’ zone.
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Jason Spezza and T.J. Brodie scored for Toronto, which beat Worth twice with underneath 10 minutes to go in regulation to tie it. Jack Campbell stopped 28 pictures for the abruptly wobbly Leafs.
The Canadiens, who gained Recreation 5 in time beyond regulation at Scotiabank Enviornment and wish to come again from a 3-1 sequence deficit to win for the third time in franchise historical past, now head to Toronto for Monday’s finale with wind firmly of their sails.
The Leafs, in the meantime, desperately must get again on observe or face the prospect of one other disastrous playoff exit for a group and fan base that’s suffered with out a Stanley Cup, or a lot to get enthusiastic about, for the final 54 years.
Recreation 6 of this showdown between Unique Six combatants with an extended historical past, though not a lot of it latest, was performed in entrance of a boisterous 2,500 followers contained in the 21,302-seat venue after the Quebec authorities relaxed some restrictions and the province’s curfew ended Friday.
The winner of Toronto-Montreal will tackle Winnipeg after the Jets registered a shocking sweep of Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers within the Canadian-based North Division’s different first-round sequence.
Badly outplayed by means of 40 minutes, however nonetheless tied 0-0, the top-seeded Leafs obtained an influence play early within the third interval, however Worth denied NHL regular-season purpose chief Auston Matthews on the doorstep.
The Canadiens then obtained their second man benefit of the night time when William Nylander went off for goalie interference, and Perry scored his first of the playoffs at 5:26 on a mad scramble in entrance because the Bell Centre exploded in celebration.
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Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe had his problem for goalie interference denied, which put Toronto again down a person. Toronto star Mitch Marner then fired a clearing try over the glass to present the house aspect a 5-on-3 energy play for 1:41.
And the Canadiens made the Leafs pay when Toffoli squeezed his first previous Campbell at 6:43 to stretch the result in 2-0 as Montreal followers — masked and socially distanced — rejoiced all through the cavernous constructing.
Down to 5 defencemen after Jake Muzzin left with an obvious groin damage within the second, Spezza breathed life into Toronto at 11:35 when his shot went in off the stick of Montreal defenceman Jeff Petry earlier than Matthews hit the put up a pair minutes later.
The Leafs continued to push, and Brodie fired his first purpose of 2021 off Petry’s skate and previous Worth with 3:11 left in regulation earlier than being mobbed by teammates inside a surprised Bell Centre.
And not using a playoff sequence victory in 17 years, however 11-1 all-time when main a sequence 3-1, the Leafs had been nonetheless minus captain John Tavares (concussion, knee), however Nick Foligno (lower-body damage) returned to the lineup after lacking three video games, whereas Canadiens counterpart Jake Evans was again in after getting harm within the opener. Montreal additionally inserted defenceman Brett Kulak for the injured Jon Merrill.
Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs Recreation 6 pleasure, tickets sky excessive
Spurred on by the primary Canadian hockey crowd in practically 15 months — followers of each groups belted out O Canada to a nationwide tv viewers — Montreal got here out on firing and led 8-0 on the shot clock throughout an early barrage that included a Toronto energy play.
Campbell, who was jeered by the gang early and sometimes, made huge stops on Toffoli, Shea Weber, Nick Suzuki and Eric Staal, with the Leafs firmly on their heels.
Toronto, which completed the common season first within the division, 18 factors up on Montreal, lastly began to calm down because the interval wore on, however Worth was there to disclaim Nylander and Foligno, prompting the primary chants of “Carey! Carey!” from the house crowd in additional than a 12 months.
Montreal continued to push with rookie sniper Cole Caufield ringing a shot off the put up 90 seconds into the second interval. Campbell denied Toffoli on a 3-on-1 because the Leafs continued to show the puck earlier than Staal had the Toronto goaltender at his mercy on one other odd-man rush, however Canadiens supporters ready to blow up groaned because the puck sailed over the crossbar.
Phillip Danault had one other good likelihood with the Canadiens coming in waves, and issues went from unhealthy to worse for Toronto — the one excellent news was the rating remained 0-0 — when Muzzin departed with the coach.
The scenes outdoors the Bell Centre earlier than puck drop resembled some degree of normality as followers loved beers within the sunshine.
The Canadiens gave Recreation 6 seat precedence to season-ticket holders, luxury-suite holders, and company companions to buy tickets in pods of two or 4.
Consumers had been allowed to resell tickets, and various took benefit. Costs had been exorbitant for the common fan on the secondary market, with the most affordable pair obtainable a few hours earlier than puck drop nonetheless priced round $1,800 on Ticketmaster.
However for Canadiens followers in attendance — and with the cash obtainable — it was price each greenback.
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Might 29, 2021.
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