The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens in a match with several players making their NHL debuts, including Auston Matthews, with a thrilling ending in 3-on-3 overtime.

I’m going to get the wet blanket part of the recap out of the way first: pretty much none of the Habs top players were in this game: no Weber, no Price, no Subban Shaw. There was no top defence pairing you would expect from them in a regular season game. Take these game results with an appropriately sized grain of salt.

All of that being said, in this game we got to see a first glimpse of the great hockey in store for Maple Leafs fans this coming season.

The new top line of Hyman-Matthews-Nylander looked stellar for what was only their first real game together. They setup plays with each other and fired off shots, playing for about 18 minutes total time on ice, about the same as the second line of JvR-Bozak-Marner. They were really fun to watch. Matthews plowed through defenders like they weren’t even there. His ability to keep control of the puck is amazing. He is one powerful player.

Here are the stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

Van Riemsdyk and Bozak played with Marner who had a good game as well, though quiet on the score sheet side.

Jhonas Enroth played the first half of the game, while Sparks took the second. While Enroth did let in the first goal, Babcock apparently switched only because he wanted the chance to see them both in this game, and not because of performance.

Also making his Leafs debut was Nikita Zaitsev, the 25 year old Russian defenceman the Leafs convinced to come over from the KHL. It was quite a splash. He scored the first Leafs goal of the night in the second period witha thunderous shot on Habs’ goalie Mike Condon.

The Leafs didn’t have to do much defending for much of the second period as the Habs took four penalties in a row. The Leafs power play looked a bit raw. You could tell they are still trying to figure out how to interact with each other. A PP unit late in the second period of Kadri-Matthews-Nylander looked particularly bad together, though individually were still making some decent plays.

Morgan Rielly was fantastic all night. He was more frequently joining in on the rush, and playing down toward the net than I have noticed in past seasons. Here he is getting setup by Nylander for the Leafs second goal of the game in the third period.

For much of the night the top line played with Polak and Valiev on defence, neither of whom did much to write home about, but their game was more consistent than the forwards. Polak was most notable for taking a puck to the face. After a brief scare he came back in to the game and was fine.

Perhaps still mad at the puck, he flipped it over the glass near the end of the third period taking a delay of game penalty. With minutes left, the Leafs up 2-1, Hunwick already in the box for tripping, and the Habs pulling their goalie, the Leafs and Sparks had to fend off a 6-on-3 for about 90 seconds. The Habs 6-on-3 attack was not actually very good, so it’s no surprise the Leafs killed off those penalties, but, and doesn’t it always work this way, they were then scored on in the dying seconds of the game when it was back to even strength.

OT was 3-on-3 and so much fun to watch. With so much space opened up on the ice the young Leafs got really creative. Marner had a great move, and so did Matthews, but it was one of the veterans who would end up ending the game.

JvR did what he does best, drive the puck to the net, defenders be damned, and create the scoring chance. After doing 99% of the work on the play himself, he wound up passing to Hunwick who put it away.

The Leafs next game is Tuesday at 9:30PM ET in Saskatoon, where they will play the Senators.