John Tavares secures crucial victory for Leafs over Canadiens in battle for playoff home ice

Lucas Viveiros | Report

With plenty at stake on Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to grind out a gusty 4-3 victory in overtime, over their greatest rival Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs came into the contest just one point back of the Maple Leafs (although having played two more games) and knew that this game was a huge opportunity to perhaps surpass the Buds for second place in the Atlantic division.

Montreal was able to set the tone early with a quick strike goal by Andrew Shaw just 51 seconds into the game. The goal came off an offensive zone face-off win by the Habs and a point shot by Jeff Petry that was tipped on the way through by the stick of Shaw. Canadiens fans were jumping for joy and ecstatic that their team had grasped the early lead.

But Toronto would respond with a marker of their own less than a minute and half later when Andreas Johnsson would tuck home a wrap around attempt from Zach Hyman to even the scoreboard at one’s. The goal was Johnsson’s 14th of the season, as he continues to contribute in a very meaningful way for the Leafs depth scoring.

The Buds were then able to retrieve a lead of their own, as after a good fourth line zone entry, Par Lindholm would find Nikita Zaitsev at the blue-line. Zaitsev would put a well placed shot on goal that Carey Price was never able to track due to a screen, and Toronto would have a 2-1 lead.

Just over midway through the first, on a Montreal power-play, Tomas Tatar was left all alone in the slot for a great chance to even the game up, but Frederik Andersen was up to the task to ensure Toronto would head to the intermission with their 2-1 advantage.

Montreal would once again light the lamp in the early going of a period, this time 1:13 into the second when Tomas Tatar would get his revenge on Andersen, snapping an easy floater on goal that Andersen missed with his glove, and as a result tying the game 2-2.

The remainder of the second period would be largely uneventful, with only a few major scoring chances for each team and both goaltenders coming up huge, resulting in a 2-2 tie heading into the third.

The third period would see the pace kicked up a few notches, and the intensity rise in the Bell Centre, as both clubs looked to get this game over within regulation.

Midway through the third, at the end of a Canadiens power-play, Max Domi would streak into the Leafs zone with great speed, forcing the Leafs defenders on their heels. Domi would play a quick give and go with Andrew Shaw, and then pass the puck out front to Brendan Gallagher, who would slam home the biscuit to place the Canadiens back out front 3-2.

But just like their previous lead, this one would be very short lived, as Toronto’s William Nylander would let a beauty of a wrist shot go that would beat Carey Price cleanly just over a minute later, tying the game once again.

With the extra point on the line, this game would be decided in overtime, and who better to come up in the big moment than John Tavares, who was playing in his first game at the Bell Centre as a member of the Maple Leafs.

Tavares would roof a backhand over the glove of Price after Marner found him with a perfect pass, showing off the chemistry that these two have developed over the season. As a result, Toronto would take the extra point and win the game 4-3.

Revisit the game’s highlights below.

Next, Toronto will march on in their road trip and take on the New York Rangers on Sunday evening.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm from Madison Square Garden, and can be viewed on Sportsnet.

More news from the ice

  • The Maple Leafs sixth consecutive win over the Canadiens marks the first time they have accomplished that feat since Dec. 6 – Feb. 7, 1951
  • Auston Matthews needs one point to become the fifth player in Leafs history to record 180 points in less than 200 career games
  • Toronto is now 10-7-2 on Hockey Day in Canada, while the Canadiens dropped to    9-8-2 on the special day
  • Carey Price played in his 600th NHL game
  • Prior to puck drop the Canadiens acquired Dale Weise and Christian Folin from the Flyers in exchange for David Schlemko and Byron Froese

Out of town scoreboard

Saturday, February 9

Los Angeles 4 Boston 5 (OT)

Detroit 1 Buffalo 3 

Minnesota 4 New Jersey 2

Colorado 3 NY Islanders 4 (OT)

Anaheim 2 Philadelphia 6

Nashville 2 St. Louis 3

Winnipeg 2 Ottawa 5

Dallas 2 Arizona 3

San Jose 5 Edmonton 2

Pittsburgh 4 Tampa Bay 5

Florida 5 Washington 4 (OT)

Calgary 3 Vancouver 4 (SO)

Columbus 4 Vegas 3

More coverage to follow. Image from SB Nation.

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