MONTREAL – The Canadiens fell into the league’s top team on Saturday-evening and dropped a 5-3 decision for the Maple Leafs.
Claude Julien’s players looked sharp for their first appearance at the Bell Center since February 11.
Come on Paul Byron, which approved waivers earlier in the week, was lined up for the fourth fight of the season between the two teams.
Tomas Tatar was also in uniform after a healthy scratch in Toronto last Saturday night.
Carey pricemeanwhile made its 10th start of the year.
During the warm up of the match, young gun Nick Suzuki wore special gear to celebrate Black History Month.
There were no goals to report during a tough first period.
Both teams exchanged top scoring opportunities, but Price and Maple Leafs-starter Frederik Andersen were at the top of their respective games.
Price turned 13 shots and made several stops with highlights in the first 20 minutes, including this one on right winger William Nylander.
He followed that up with this miraculous desperation glove, except for right winger Ilya Mikheyev.
Andersen for his part made 10 stops to keep half time winless.
However, the Maple Leafs roared out of the gate in the middle frame, scoring two power play goals in the space of 15 seconds.
Centerman Auston Matthews started with a one-timer from Price on a perfect feed from Mitch Marner at 1:05 p.m. of the period.
Matthews’ League-leading 17th goal of the season came on a two-man advantage, and it extended his point streak to 16 consecutive games.
Fellow pivot Travis Boyd placed Sheldon Keefe’s team with a pair when he ended a nice passing game with a tap-in-count on Price.
But the Canadiens responded with two goals of their own 33 seconds apart to tie the score.
First, Jesperi Kotkaniemi defeated Andersen on a breakaway with a sweet wrist shot up at 3:24 from the frame.
It was the 20-year-old Finn’s second goal of the year and broke an eleven-game drought.
Tatar and Joel Edmundson collected the assists.
Then Byron scored his first goal of the season with an excellent individual effort to sort things out.
Unfortunately, Marner put the Maple Leafs back up front with 7:31 up in the period.
He resolved Price at the end of a 2-on-1.
Matthews struck again with his second goal of the evening and 18th of the year thanks to another power play goal at 3:05 pm from the stanza.
His signature wrist shot from the slot beat Price through traffic and gave Toronto a 4-2 lead.
That’s how things stood during the break, when Montreal beat their North Division rivals by a margin of 26-21.
Centerman Alexander Kerfoot gave Toronto a 5-2 lead with 6:24 left in the regulation, shielding an odd-man rush with an easy count on a pass from Jason Spezza.
Tyler Toffoli cut the lead to 5-3 by scoring his team-leading 11th goal of the season for the Canadiens with 1:26 left before the final buzzer.
Alexander Romanov and Brendan Gallagher collected the assists.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Habs would get.
Price made 22 saves in the loss, while Andersen stopped 30 shots to pick up his 11th win.
The Canadiens will be back in action on Sunday evening when they visit the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Center.
It marks the start of a four-game road trip with a second game against the senators on Tuesday, before the team heads to Manitoba for a few games against the Winnipeg Jets.
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