One of the first games to leave the gate of the 2021 NHL season on Wednesday-evening was an original six game between Maple Leafs to host the Canadiens in the all-new (Canadian) North Division. It took some extra time, but the Leafs skated away with a 5-4 overtime victory to start their season on the positive.
Toronto came back from three drawbacks, including a two-goal deficit in the second period before Morgan Rielly hit the winner in the extra session on a feed from John Tavares.
“They are a good team. They came out and played hard, which was what we expected,” said Rielly after the game. “We are obviously happy with the win and I think we have a lot of areas to get better … Opening the year with a win is always a good feeling.”
The Canadiens Nick Suzuki got the score started with a power play goal before William Nylander scored his first of two on the evening. Josh Anderson, who the Canadiens acquired for Max Domi during the Blue Jackets’ hiatus, scored two, including a goal 63 seconds in the last frame to give Montreal a 4-3 lead. Leafs newcomer Jimmy Vesey caught on when Nylander found him in a broken piece. Montreal tried to wrap the puck behind the net, but it hit the referee and went straight to Nylander who fed Vesey with Carey Price out of position.
“Obviously it’s nice to start the season with a good bounce. I usually think when the team is hard at work those bounces will come our way,” noted Nylander.
While the score was clearly critical, a number of players commented after the game that the turning point was when the off-season free-agent signee and Ontario’s Wayne Simmonds dropped the gloves with Ben Chiarot not long after Tomas Tatar gave the Canadiens a 3- 1 lead.
“That’s my first real game action in about 10 months and 28 days and I could probably tell you until the second,” Simmonds said, laughing. “But it felt really good. I thought the guys there needed a bit of a spark. I know my role in this team, so I asked Chiarot and I didn’t think he wanted to go first, but he dropped the gloves for me. So it was green light, go. I’m glad he gave it to me and it helped turn the tide for the team. “
Both teams had a lot to prove in 2021 and looked solid in the opener, with Sporting News having all the action when the Leafs came back to beat the Canadiens 5-4 in extra time.
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs scores, highlights of the 2021 NHL season opener
(All times East)
Overtime: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 4
9.50 pm GOAL. John Tavares and Morgan Rielly get a 2-on-1 breakaway and it’s Rielly who finishes. Maple Leafs wins 5-4.
9:48 PM Phillip Danault gets a break but just misses it.
9.46 pm Overtime is in progress.
9:44 PM Before the overtime starts, Auston Matthews is in some pain on the couch. He’s done a few cross-checks and is being checked by the trainer.
Third Period: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 4
9:42 PM Ninety seconds to go and it’s equal to 4-4. Seconds later, Mikheyev is stopped by Price during a break.
9:28 pm GOAL. Jimmy Vesey gets his first as Leaf. The pass round hits the referee and goes to Nylander who feeds Vesey for goal against an out of position Price. Match tied with 4-4.
9:15 PM Short summary: two goals for Josh Anderson (MTL) and William Nylander (TOR)
9:11 PM GOAL. Canadiens break out 2v2 and Josh Anderson flies past the left wing, going around Tavares and scoring while cutting to the net. Canadiens leads 4-3.
Josh Anderson has his first game with two goals since March 24, 2019. He is finally healthy and has a great debut with Montreal.
Chris johnston (@reporterchris) January 14, 2021
9:10 PM Ben Chiarot blocks a shot in the rib area and goes down. He gets out and has some pain on the couch.
9:08 PM The third period has begun and the Leafs have 20 seconds of power play time. (They wouldn’t score)
Second Period: Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 3
8.50 pm Leaves carry over 20 seconds of power play time to the third period.
8:49 PM Leaves still have 59 seconds of power play time.
20:47 PP AIM. John Tavares on the doorstep in the Mitch Marner pass. Kyle Dubas is pumped. Match tied on 3.
8.46 pm Shea Weber immediately puts the puck over the glass and the Leafs get a one minute and 57 seconds lead for two men.
8.45 pm Leafs returns to the power game when Nick Suzuki is called for holding.
20:43 PP AIM. William Nylander gets his second part of the game when he grips stick and then goes from the top shelf past Price’s glove from the left circle. Canadiens leads 3-2.
8.40 pm Leaves go to the power game.
8:25 pm Wayne Simmonds drops the gloves with Ben Chiarot.
8:17 PM PPGOAL. Woah. What a pass from Alexander Romanov to Tomas Tatar who scores five holes. Canadiens leads 3-1.
8:08 PM Second period underway.
First Period: Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1
19:47 GOAL. Josh Anderson gets his first with the Canadiens on a nice pass from Jonathan Drouin. Last year, he scored one goal with the Blue Jackets in 26 games. Canadiens leads 2-1.
19:43 GOAL. William Nylander with a bang from the point. Match draw 1-1.
19:35 PP GOAL. As noted, it is Nick Suzuki szn. He scores from the goal line on a rebound from the goal post. Canadiens leads 1-0.
7:18 PM Lots of action and it takes five minutes and 10 seconds for the first whistle to sound.
7:16 PM Carey price in the form of the mid season.
6:58 PM Hockey is back.
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