TORONTO – William Nylander scored the winning goal early in the third period and Jack Campbell made 31 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in the season opener for both teams on Wednesday.
Pierre Engvall had the other goal for Toronto in front of 18,493 masked and fully vaccinated fans at Scotiabank Arena, the venue’s first regular season audience since March 10, 2020, due to COVID-19.
Jonathan Drouin answered for Montreal. Jake Allen stopped 28 shots for the Canadiens, whose surprising run to last season’s Stanley Cup final included that surprising comeback from a 3-1 series deficit against the Leafs in the first round.
Toronto was minus No. 1 center Auston Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals in just 52 games during the pandemic-shortened 2021-22 NHL campaign, due to a wrist injury that has not fully healed from surgery, while star winger Mitch Marner dressed after leaving Tuesday. Practice early after a collision with your teammate Wayne Simmonds.
Montreal began life in earnest without captain and bruised defender Shea Weber due to life-threatening ankle and foot injuries that will keep him out of the game this season, while goalkeeper Carey Price entered the NHL / player assistance program. NHLPA last week and will be out of the team until at least early November.
It was a summer of change and loss for the Canadiens, as the club dressed only 13 of the 20 players who dressed in Game 5 of the club’s Cup loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in July.
Nylander broke a 1-1 tie in 66 seconds of the third when he received a pass from Morgan Rielly outside of the race before faking a slap and shooting up at Allen’s short.
Montreal had an excellent chance to bounce back with a 5-on-3 power play for 1:44, but the Leafs survived thanks to a shot block from Justin Holl with Brendan Gallagher staring into an open net.
The Canadiens got another male lead opportunity with less than nine minutes to go in regulation when Nylander stumbled out, but was once again left empty-handed when Toronto held out late.
Fans of both teams flocked to downtown Toronto in the hours leading up to the puck’s crash, including near the Maple Leaf Square atrium that was used as a COVID-19 testing site for arena staff, los team employees and the media last season.
The 48th Highlanders, who have performed at every Toronto event since Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1931, kept the tradition alive practically last season and returned Wednesday with their bagpipes and drums on the ice before warm-ups.
With the assistance of a group of front-line workers, Hamilton-based Arkells shuddered in a pre-recorded performance outside the Leafs locker room before anthem singer Martina Ortiz Luis encouraged fans to take over singing. from O Canada with the Scotiabank Arena full for the first time in 582 days.
While the near-exhausted crowd was ready to go, the home team was certainly not early, as Montreal had five excellent scoring opportunities in the first three minutes of the game over the sharp Campbell.
The Canadiens finally jumped to the front at 7:22 PM when Drouin, who walked away from the team in April due to anxiety and insomnia, scored with a 2v1 run after Toronto flipped the puck on the blue line. offensive. .
The Leafs would finally get going, and Engvall scored the first power play goal of his career at 10:12 when he outscored Allen.
The Montreal goalkeeper was then rescued by the iron twice, including late in the period with a deflected effort from Rasmus Sandin that bounced off the crossbar.
Toronto kept up the pressure in the second, with Engvall and Nylander closing in before newly acquired Ondrej Kase couldn’t find range on two big chances.
Montreal’s Nick Suzuki forced Campbell to save Campbell to send the teams into the locker room tied 1-1 in 40 minutes before Nylander pushed the Leafs in front just over a minute in the third.