Leafs lean on defense, goalie entering Game 4 in Montreal

NHL Hockey

The visiting Toronto Maple Leafs will attempt to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven, North Division first-round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

The Maple Leafs earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Game 3 on Monday night in Montreal after the teams split the first two games in Toronto.

The Canadiens, who have been outscored 8-4 in the series, inserted rookie Cole Caufield into the lineup to add some offense Monday after he was held out the first two games.

The 20-year-old, who had four goals in 10 regular-season games, did not score but hit the crossbar on a power play early in the first period. He also had a dangerous chance late in the third period.

Nick Suzuki scored Montreal’s goal on Monday. William Nylander scored his third goal of the series for Toronto, and Morgan Rielly notched what turned out to be the game-winner late in the second period.

The Canadiens pressed hard in the third, producing a 15-2 advantage in shots on goal in the period, but Toronto goaltender Jack Campbell was solid. Campbell finished with 28 saves.

“If you watched the third period, we were on our heels a little bit and not really making plays,” Rielly said. “That’s an area we can improve on. We communicated well on the ice, we worked hard for one another and we got the result.

“There’s always going to be things we want to change about the process, and I think for us that would be the third period just in terms of being calm with the puck and making plays like we were earlier in the game.”

Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe added, “Of course, we don’t like defending as much as we did (in the third period), but our guys defended very hard. Guys competed. It was a tough, tough period. They’re coming at us real hard.

“I’d like to see us relax and make a few more plays so we can settle the game down, but it’s a very important game. It’s a very important period. I thought our guys battled hard, and of course our goalie was our best player.”

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who made a spectacular lunging stick save on Jason Spezza in the first period, said he was “not frustrated at all” by his team’s lack of offense.

“I believe in these guys,” he said. “These guys are talented guys. I see their shots in practice every day and I have no doubt in their ability to score goals. … It’s going to come.”

After an even first period, Price kept the Canadiens in the game during the second period in which Toronto had a 20-8 advantage in shots on goal.

“It’s tough to forecheck when you spend so much time in your own zone,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said.

That changed in the third when the Maple Leafs tended to sit back more.

“They put a lot of emphasis on protecting the blue paint,” said Canadiens right winger Brendan Gallagher, who was stopped by Campbell on a 14-foot shot from in front of goal in the first period. “You can tell, it’s something they talked about before the series.”

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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