“We had a lot of chances. It’s a match of a few centimeters. And we couldn’t do it, ”said Toronto star Auston Matthews after Montreal’s 3-2 overtime win in Game 6, his second straight overtime victory over Stumbling Maple. Leaves.
For the second time in as many games, the winning goal was offered by a Toronto roll. In Game 6, defenseman Travis Dermott lost the puck in his own zone, which led to Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s deflected shot past goaltender Jack Campbell at 3:15 pm into overtime. It was the Canadiens’ second shot in overtime, as Toronto turned away 13 by goaltender Carey Price (41 saves).
Many of the overtime scoring opportunities were generated by the Maple Leafs’ top line with Matthews and Mitchell Marner. But they have a combined goal in the series.
“I thought they were working really hard. Obviously they weren’t doing enough, ”said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe.
Suddenly, the Maple Leafs, a franchise defined by its playoff grief, face first-round elimination in their quest to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.
“Don’t worry about what the supporters say. It doesn’t matter, ”said forward Nick Foligno. “It happens for a reason. Sometimes that’s what catapults you. It’s hard for the fans to hear right now, but we’re going to come with the mindset that we’re going to win a hockey game. “
That overtime error ended the game, but it wasn’t the Maple Leafs’ only blunder that moved Game 6 to Montreal. Toronto came out flat in the first period, being shot 15-9 as the Canadiens fed on their home crowd of 2,500 fans, the first time spectators have been allowed into the Bell Center this year.
“We just weren’t ready to play at the start of the game. We really have to start on time because there is a lot of talk about it and it’s not good enough, ”said Marner.
In the third period, Toronto used a coach’s challenge on Montreal’s opening goal, hoping that Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli’s presence in the end zone would nullify Corey Perry’s power-play goal. They lost the challenge and received a minor penalty for late game. Just 19 seconds later, Marner cleared the puck over the glass for another game delay penalty. Toffoli scored in the ensuing 5-on-3 power play.
“We felt it was worthy of a challenge,” said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe. “There’s a precedent there, with Toffoli standing there in the compound and the keeper trying to get back into his compound and he can’t. We thought there was a precedent there. We thought given what was going on in the game, the importance of the goal, I thought at the time that it was worth the challenge and having confidence in the penalty kill that they could. do it. But obviously, it ended 5 against 3. “
Maple Leafs veterans Jason Spezza and TJ Brodie scored in the third period to force overtime, giving Toronto some semblance of positive momentum as it comes home.
“These last 10 minutes or so shows that we’re not giving up,” said Campbell.
In Game 7 Monday night, the seeded Maple Leafs envision another potential playoff disaster. They entered the series as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They lost star center John Tavares to injury in Game 1 loss, inexplicably won the next three games, but are one loss from elimination.
“You work hard at the start of a series to give yourself a chance to set them up. It happens on three [for us] “Said Foligno. “I believe in this group. For what we’re trying to accomplish here, I think it’s about staying in the moment. It is the best thing you can advise anyone.
“In Game 7, you are up to the task because you are in the moment and there may not be a tomorrow. ”