The fans of the Canadian who were happy with the start of the preparatory calendar did not have much to eat on Saturday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had opted for a training a little more seasoned than that of the Canadian and they easily defeated the Montreal club 4-1, at the Scotiabank Arena.
Cole Caufield generated a handful of scoring opportunities for the Habs, who were however bottled up more often than not in their home turf by rivals in the first two periods.
The Canadiens’ players tried to make amends in the third period and Tyler Toffoli allowed his team to avoid the shutout.
Jake Muzzin, John Tavares, Michael Bunting and Kurtis Gabriel hit the target for the Maple Leafs. William Nylander and TJ Brodie each collected two assists.
Michael Hutchinson turned away 13 shots. He gave way to Ian Scott early in the third period, but Scott played just 4:23 before injuring himself and retreating to the locker room.
Tavares was in his first game since May 20, when he suffered a knee injury and concussion following a disturbing collision with Corey Perry in the first game of the North Section semi-final between the Canadian and the Leafs.
Cayden Primeau gave up three times against 21 shots in net for the Canadiens, in 33:38 of play. Michael McNiven stopped 10 shots the remainder of the game.
The trio of Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Caufield was the most threatening for the Canadian. That of Mathieu Perreault, Cédric Paquette and Alex Belzile sometimes showed great energy.
Ryan Poehling was rather quiet before missing a breakaway opportunity in the final third.
Defenders Xavier Ouellet and Arber Xhekaj finished the game with a respective record of minus-2.
The Canadian will play his traditional Red vs White game on Sunday afternoon at the Bell Center. He will then host the Maple Leafs on Monday night.
Evening to forget
Nylander set the tone for the game with a nice climb early in the game. He made fun of Gianni Fairbrother, but ran into Primeau.
The Maple Leafs opened the scoring after 10:28 of play. Nylander drew three roofers and spotted Muzzin marauding on the other side. The defender scored with a precise shot from the shield side.
The locals continued to threaten Primeau’s net thereafter, but did not widen the gap before the end of the first twenty.
The Maple Leafs dominated the second period 15-2 in shots on goal and extended their lead.
Tavares deftly deflected a Nylander throw into the goal at 1:55, on a power play.
Bunting then took advantage of a rebate from Brodie in net to make it 3-0 in favor of the Leafs at 7:25.
Meanwhile, tough Canadian Brandon Baddock had thrown the gloves in front of Kurtis Gabriel, after the Leafs forward applied a dangerous check to his rival.
The Canadian still had no shot on goal in the second period when Primeau gave way to McNiven with 6:22 left on the throw-off.
Brett Kulak finally took the Habs’ first shot on goal with 1:22 left in the second period, shortly after a failed three-way attack on the goalkeeper. Caufield had also screwed up a breakaway opportunity minutes earlier, missing the mark to Hutchinson’s left.
The Canadian knocked on the door a little more frequently in the final third. Caufield bumped into Scott on a catch at close range, then Poehling bumped into Hutchinson on a breakaway.
At the other end of the ice, McNiven stood in front of Josh Ho-Sang, also on a breakaway. McNiven also frustrated Muzzin with a close range backhand shot.
McNiven was the author of his misfortune on the Leafs’ fourth goal, with 4:48 to go. He stepped into the slot to retrieve a loose puck, then his pass was intercepted by Gabriel, who only had to shoot into an abandoned cage.
Toffoli finally saved the Canadiens honor by hitting the target on a breakaway with 1:56 to go.
A shootout was presented after the meeting. Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev moved the strings in the Leafs’ camp, while Caufield was the only one to do so for the Canadiens.