MONTREAL (AP) — Morgan Rielly scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, Jack Campbell made 28 saves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
William Nylander scored his third goal in as many games for Toronto, which hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and can go up 3-1 in Game 4 back at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
“All the credit in the world has to go to Jack Campbell,” Rielly said of his teammate, who made 15 of his saves in the third period. “He was an absolute warrior for us. Down the home stretch, he was outstanding. He’s been there for us all year and tonight was no different. He’s an absolute stud.”
Campbell has allowed just four goals and has a .951 save percentage through nine periods in the series, and was under siege late as the Canadiens desperately pressed for an equalizer.
“They’re coming at us real hard,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “I’d like to see us relax and make a few more plays so we can settle the game down. But it’s a very important game, it’s a very important period. Our guys battled hard, and of course, our goalie was our best player.”
Nick Suzuki had the lone goal for Montreal, and Carey Price stopped 27 shots.
“I’m not frustrated at all,” said Price, whose team is 0 for 9 on the power play. “I believe in these guys. They’re trying. It’s going to come.”
The Maple Leafs remained without captain John Tavares, who’s expected to miss at least two weeks with a concussion and knee injury suffered during a scary collision in Game 1.
Nick Foligno wasn’t on the ice for the morning skate — Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe emphatically declared him fit to play — and was in warmups, but sat out the game with a lower-body injury. Riley Nash took his spot the lineup.
Toronto opened the scoring at 7:18 of the second period when Alexander Kerfoot, who was promoted to the second line with Foligno out, won an offensive zone faceoff back to Nylander. With two goals in as many games coming into Monday, the Leafs forward made it 3 for 3 with a quick shot that glanced off Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot and past Price.
After Price denied Pierre Engvall on the doorstep on a long Toronto shift in the Canadiens’ end, Montreal started to find some life and Suzuki eventually tied it at 13:56 when his shot off the rush when he beat Campbell under the blocker.
But Rielly restored the Leafs’ advantage 2:39 later when he took a pass from Mitch Marner and fooled Price upstairs.
Auston Matthews was denied by Price on the doorstep before Marner was also stopped in close before a big scrum ensued, with the Canadiens earning an extra minor penalty, as Toronto outshot Montreal 20-7 in the period.
Cole Caufield wired a shot over Campbell’s net on a chance midway through the third, and the Leafs goaltender was there again on another sharp-angle effort off the winger’s stick.
Campbell then stopped Josh Anderson, Tomas Tatar and Phillipe Danault in quick succession as Montreal pushed desperately to tie. Toronto defenseman Justin Holl then blocked a late chance by Caufield as the Leafs held on.
“Montreal is tough, they’re opportunistic, they have a lot of skill,” Campbell said. “Our guys were doing a great job peppering Carey at the other end. We knew they’d push and they did, but thankfully everybody was battling.”
LOOKING FOR OFFENSE
The Canadiens dressed Caufield after generating just three goals in the first two games of the series in Toronto. The 20-year-old rookie sniper scored four times in 10 games towards the end of the regular season, including one in overtime against the Leafs, following a dominant career with the U.S. National Team Development Program and two standouts seasons in college at the University of Wisconsin.
NOTES: Montreal F Eric Staal sat out with an undisclosed injury, which prevented Tatar being made a healthy scratch. … If there’s a Game 6 on Saturday in Montreal, the Quebec government will permit 2,500 fans into the Bell Centre — the first Canadian NHL crowd since the start of the pandemic last year.
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