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Tavares scores winner, Leafs beat Habs 3-2

MONTREAL – John Tavares scored the game-winning goal with 6:46 left in the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Saturday night at Bell Centre.

Max Domi and Bobby McMann also scored for Toronto (37-19-8), which bounced back from a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves.

Mike Matheson — with a goal and an assist — and Alex Newhook replied for Montreal (24-30-10), which had lost four of its last five games. Juraj Slafkovsky pitched in with two assists.

Sam Montembeault stopped 24 shots.

Star Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury sustained Thursday, forcing head coach Sheldon Keefe to shuffle his lines.

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Defenceman Joel Edmundson — who played three seasons for the Canadiens from 2020 to 2023 — and forward Connor Deward made their Maple Leaf debuts after being acquired before Friday’s trade deadline.

It was the first game between the two historic rivals since the Maple Leafs pulled off a late comeback to beat the Canadiens 6-5 in a shootout to open the season on Oct. 11 in Toronto.

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Fans of both teams showed out in full force, with competing “Go Leafs Go!” and “Go Habs Go!” chants throughout the evening.

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Down 2-1 entering the third, the Canadiens tied the game 5:05 into the period courtesy of a power-play goal from Newhook, whose wrist shot beat Samsonov off the post and in on his far side.

The Maple Leafs, however, regained the advantage after Jake McCabe’s one-timer hit Montembeault’s pad and deflected off Tavares in front of the net.

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Toronto forward Calle Jarnkrok took a tripping penalty with three minutes left to send Montreal on the power play.

The Canadiens also pulled the goalie for an extra attacker with two minutes left, but didn’t generate much despite some sustained time in the Maple Leafs zone.

After Jarnkrok left the box, Slafkovsky had one good look with a one-timer that grazed the post. That was as close as Montreal got to forcing overtime.

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In the first, Matheson gave the home fans a reason to cheer early by opening the scoring 38 seconds into the game with a gorgeous goal that blew the roof off the Bell Centre.

Cole Caufield received a cross-ice pass from Slafkovsky in space along the right side of Toronto’s zone before patiently setting up Matheson, who deked to the backhand around Samsonov’s left pad for his ninth.

After an otherwise uneventful first period that included a delay to replace a glass panel and broken plays from each side, both teams cranked up the intensity in the second.

This time, Toronto scored early in the period as McMann buried an equalizer 39 seconds in after capitalizing on a bobbled puck by Arber Xhekaj at the blue line and firing a shot past Montembeault.

Josh Anderson nearly regained Montreal’s lead minutes later but rung his shot off the post.

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Both teams traded penalties midway through an increasingly chippy game. During four-on-four play, league-leading scorer Auston Matthews had two consecutive shots from the slot turned away by Montembeault.

Matthews was held off the scoresheet to remain at 54 goals in 63 games this season.

Domi gave Toronto the lead with 1:19 left in the second. Jarnkrok floated a pass from the defensive zone that found Domi streaking through the neutral zone. The former Hab beat a couple defenders before scoring his eighth.


Canadiens forward Michael Pezzetta played his first game since Feb. 17 (healthy scratch), drawing in for winger Jesse Ylonen for the Original Six matchup.

With Edmundson and Dewar making their debuts, defencemen Conor Timmins and Simon Benoit and forward Noah Gregor sat out for Toronto, as well as the injured Marner.


Canadiens: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Maple Leafs: Wrap up a three-game road trip Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2024.


&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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