The Toronto Maple Leafs will have a couple of streaks on the line when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night in the first of three final games between the teams.
Not only have the Maple Leafs won five in a row, but in the past four they have held their opponents to one goal, including a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.
“Our team really just recognized that it was time to really dial in the details of our game both offensively and defensively,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I think there’s been a real shift there for us.”
The Maple Leafs had two more goals Saturday from Auston Matthews, who leads the league with 38, to take a 2-1 lead Saturday. They put the game away with three third-period goals.
“(Saturday) we were obviously not very good at all through two periods,” Keefe said. “But once again in the third, just with our team regrouping, just making the decision that we were going to take care of the game and it was going to remain in our control, the guys were really good again. It was fun to watch them in the third.”
The Maple Leafs (33-13-5, 71 points) have a nine-point lead over the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the North Division.
Montreal, meanwhile, has won two in a row. Both were comeback efforts, including a 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Cole Caufield, a 20-year-old playing in his fourth game, scored his first NHL goal in overtime to complete a comeback from a 2-0 third-period deficit by the Canadiens.
It was the second game in a row that the Canadiens have won after being down 2-0. They trailed 2-0 and 3-1 against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday before scoring four straight goals in a 5-3 win.
“I’m really happy for (Caufield), for sure,” said Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme. “I mean, it’s special to be scoring your first NHL goal in overtime, but I’m happy for the team, too. You know, it’s a big win. And we were resilient. We played with attitude and character, and that’s something that we talked about in the last few days that we want to carry on. So I like the way we reacted, and it was a happy ending for everyone.”
The fourth-place Canadiens (23-18-9, 55 points) have solidified their hold on a playoff spot and have moved to within two points of the third-place Winnipeg Jets. They are eight points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames.
The Canadiens played their second consecutive game without their captain, defenseman Shea Weber (lower-body injury).
That meant defenseman Jeff Petry had a larger workload; he logged a team-high 24:05 of playing time Saturday. He scored his first goal in 23 games and had an assist on Caufield’s goal. He has five points in the past four games.
“Obviously, (Weber is) a big part of our team,” Petry said. “It’s important when a guy is hurt and is out of the lineup that guys step up. I’ve unfortunately experienced it with Shea out before, so it’s a matter of, I think, just elevating my game, picking and choosing when to jump in the play. I felt the last two games I’ve just been skating better, being up in the play.”
–Field Level Media
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