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Leafs lose 5-3 to Habs, can’t have nice things

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Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Leafs woke up in a playoff position today, and in a real display of irony, their fans started to crow about it as if a playoff spot in a weak division with 44 games remaining is particularly meaningful. They’ll get a chance to cement that position a little more tonight, facing a Habs squad that is ravaged by injury.

Despite being injured, this is a Habs team that has beat the Leafs 1395712895712 times in a row (all numbers approximate), and with Carey Price in net, they’re never much of an underdog.

For the Leafs, Josh Leivo takes the place of Nikita Soshnikov, who is injured. A bit of an odd fit for him on the fourth line, but hopefully he’s able to make an impact tonight. He might also get some power play time. Let’s see how the Leafs do. If you just want video of the goals, they’re at the bottom of the recap.

First Period
  • [20:00] The Leafs are playing Andersen in both legs of a back to back, which is always a little nerve-wracking as a fan.
  • [19:40] Well, that sucks. 20 seconds in and the Habs score. Radulov does a great job to maintain the puck down low after a Shea Weber point shot, and fed it in the slot for Max Pacioretty, who makes no mistake. 1-0 Habs.
  • [18:25] So the Leafs have to chase the game from the outset, against the best goaltender in the world. Not a good spot to be in at all.
  • [17:11] Kadri’s line recovers to some extent, with a solid second shift. They generate a few low danger shots, but nothing particularly exciting.
  • [16:13] Another goal for the Habs! Artturi Lehkonen takes a quick shot on the rush from the circle, which deflects off the backchecking Brown’s stick and past Andersen. 2-0 Habs.
  • [16:13] So I don’t want to say it’s over already, but I really don’t have any hopes for this game at all.
  • [13:52] The Leafs look ... like a team that played last night in a different country. I’m already chalking this up as a schedule loss. And a “Leafs will never beat the Habs” loss. Marner looks like the only one with some jump so far.
  • [12:04] JVR draws a penalty, as his stick gets hacked in half. The ensuing power play is big, or at least as big as a first period power play can be in a regular season game. It really feels like the Leafs have to score here.
  • [11:35] And they do! What a pretty goal it is, finished by Tyler Bozak. Marner enters the puck with speed and dives towards the net. JVR dishes to Marner, who touches it back to Bozak beautifully, who finishes. Marner is incredible. 2-1 Habs.
  • [11:13] I really can’t overstate how incredible that pass is from Marner. What a special player.
  • [10:19] The Leafs have some hope now. Still an uphill battle, but certainly not as insurmountable as it seemed five minutes ago.
  • [7:35] The Leafs definitely have a little more pep in their step now. Even Polak is getting in on the action with a nice point shot.
  • [6:20] The Bozak line is generating some chances, effectively using the points and attempting to screen Price.
  • [4:37] A delayed penalty from the Habs leads to some extended pressure by the Leafs. Nothing comes of it, but they’ll get another man advantage, and a chance to tie the game. Kind of a soft call, in my opinion.
  • [3:59] They score again! The same unit too. Some great puck movement leads to a Marner shot from the slot. Kadri chips the rebound over Price, and we’re tied! 2-2 game. Great turnaround from the Leafs, greatly aided by the refs.
  • [1:41] The Habs will now go on the power play, as Jake Gardiner gets the box for a hook.
  • [1:34] The Habs are missing a lot of skill, but the trio of Weber, Radulov, and Pacioretty is still terrifying.
  • [1:00] So far, the Leafs have done a good job denying clean entries shorthanded. No real chances so far.
  • [0:24] As I say that, they get a great one! Petry steps around the Leafs defence, and drives the net. His rebound is poked onto the post by Lehkonen.
  • [0:01] Ugh, you’re kidding! With a second left in the period, Nikita Scherbak is forgotten in front. The puck finds him and he makes no mistake for a 3-2 Habs lead. To his credit, Schebak makes a nifty play in front, but that was not good PP defense.
Second Period
  • [19:40] The Leafs immediately take a penalty, as Marner gets lazy and trips a Hab while backchecking.
  • [19:24] Montreal makes Toronto pay immediately. A point shot causes a mad scramble in front, and in the ensuing melee, Radulov tucks it in from the goalmouth. 4-2 Habs.
  • [18:40] Looks like Nylander has been moved to the Matthews line. Remains to be seen if it’s temporary or permanent.
  • [17:50] The reality that the Leafs need to score another two goals on Price is a tough one to swallow. Especially considering that the Leafs have generated very little at even strength.
  • [15:53] This might be the most invisible Matthews has been in his young NHL career.
  • [15:34] For some reason, the Habs take exception to Leivo taking a shot on Price. McCarron and Leivo take coincidental minors.
  • [12:29] The Nylander-Matthews-Hyman line continues to be excellent, and generates some chances. Puck doesn’t settle enough for them to bury it.
  • [9:49] Multiple fights start after a big hit from Martin on Petry. And Frederik Gauthier is beating the shit out of some poor Hab, while Martin and McCarron have a more even bout.
  • [9:49 ]Seriously, don’t fuck with Gauthier.
  • [9:49] Gauthier and Farnham are both ejected. Shame Gauthier couldn’t have taken Radulov, who has been incredible tonight.
  • [8:45] Both teams trading end to end chances, including a Radulov shot from point blank range and a 2 on 1 where Morgan Rielly couldn’t poke it home off a feed from Bozak.
  • [7:12] Hyman bowls into Price, and predictably, the Habs pile onto him after the whistle. To be fair to Hyman, he did get bumped into Price by Emelin. Hyman gets a penalty for interference.
  • [5:50] This game is really hectic. Just constant turnovers and collisions.
  • [4:31] Quiet game for Matthews, but he still finds ways to display his insane skill level. He basically big-brother’s the entire Habs team, steals the puck off them, protects it, and sets up a point shot from Carrick. Predictably, Price saves it.
  • [4:06] Price is inhuman. He somehow sees a Gardiner point shot through 9 other bodies.
  • [2:22] More pressure by the Matthews line, more saves by Price. This is not a recording.
  • [1:45] Good God, Mitch Marner. He does a lap around the offensive zone, draws all the eyes to him, and makes a beautiful cross-crease pass to JVR, who taps it home. Marner has been phenomenal all game, all season, and will be for the next 15. We’re lucky to have him.
  • [1:16] That’s three primary assists for Marner. And he was vital for all of them.
  • [0:57] Kadri falls on the puck and gets a penalty for staying there. It’s delay of game, and the Leafs have to kill another penalty.
  • [0:00] I actually don’t think that was a questionable call. Kadri WAS delaying the game. Seems pretty textbook. The Leafs kill off the first half of the power play without incident.
  • [0:00] Weber picks a fight with Hyman after the whistle for daring to be shoved into Price by Emelin. Side note... Emelin is an absolutely slimy, dirty player. Every Leafs - Habs game, he does something shitty. Fuck that dude.
Third Period
  • [20:00] By the way, Weber is getting a penalty for his shenanigans at the end of the 2nd. So we’ll have 4-on-4 for a little, and the Leafs will get an abbreviated power play.
  • [16:34] Not a lot happens while the penalties are expiring. Leafs will have 16 minutes to get a goal and force OT.
  • [16:09] Welp, make that two goals. A horrendous goal to give up, as Michael McCarron throws it on the net from an incredibly acute angle, and it bounces off Andersen and in. 5-3 Habs.
  • [14:59] If you don’t trust your backup goaltender to play back-to-backs, why do you have him? That may be somewhat in hindsight, but there’s a reason teams play their backups in situations like these.
  • [14:20] Once again, the Bozak line creates some incredible chances, only to be stymied by Price. As the play continues, JVR takes a frustration penalty.
  • [12:07] Feels like the air has gone out of the Leafs. Too many bad penalties to overcome, too many soft goals on Andersen, etc.
  • [12:01] And that’s not a knock on Andersen... he’s had a bad game. It happens.
  • [11:03] This game is hard to assess. There’s been so many power plays, and the Leafs were chasing the game from the first shift onwards. The score adjusted Corsi battle is close, and the Leafs have been dynamite on the power play. But basically all elements of their defensive game have been lacking, most notably the man between the pipes.
  • [10:55] Lehkonen is caught by a high stick, which doesn’t get noticed by the refs. Honestly, the refs have been kind of spotty all night. In my biased opinion, it’s hurt the Leafs more than the Habs, but there’s been missed calls both ways.
  • [9:29] The Leafs lines are back to normal, with Brown returning to the Matthews line.
  • [8:23] Matthews has had a quiet night by his standards, but he still displays how ludicrously gifted he is every shift. He sets up a Gardiner blast from the point with some great hands and puck protection, but Price makes it look routine.
  • [7:12] On cue, Matthews takes a penalty for playing the puck with his hand. Way to make me look smart, Auston. This game is basically over at this point, regardless of whether the Habs score on this power play.
  • [5:54] Sorry if this lacks the usual detail - the Habs get some chances on the power play, none go in, and we have five minutes to play out the string in this one.
  • [0:00] Yeah, not much of note happens. The Leafs get some pressure with the net empty, but nothing else. That pressure included a ridiculous chance for Matthews that somehow didn’t go in and a Weber penalty.
  • [0:00] Dispiriting loss in a winnable game for the Leafs, and they continue to have no answer for the Habs. They now head into their bye week, where they’ll have five days off before facing the Rangers on Saturday.
The Goals

Pacioretty, 1-0

Lehkonen, 2-0

Bozak, 2-1

Kadri, 2-2

Scherbak, 3-2

Radulov, 4-2

van Riemsdyk, 4-3

McCarron, 5-3