TORONTO – Carey Worth had performed two durations of hockey — within the minors — over the previous month coming into Thursday.
Paul Byron, in the meantime, discovered himself on waivers three separate instances this season, his future with Montreal very a lot hanging within the stability.
Mixed with their teammates’ gritty top-to-bottom efficiency, the duo helped the underdog Canadiens fireplace a stunning opening playoff salvo on this much-anticipated battle of Authentic Six rivals.
Byron scored the short-handed winner from his knees with below eight minutes left in regulation and Worth made 35 saves because the Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 to take a 1-0 lead of their first-round sequence.
Montreal limped into the playoffs, each on the ice and with a rash of accidents, however now has the higher hand after ending 18 factors again of first-place Toronto within the NHL’s one-off Canadian-based North Division through the pandemic-shortened common season.
“New ball sport now,” mentioned Worth, who was sidelined with a concussion. “We had struggles by means of the season, however acquired to the playoffs.
“It’s a brand new season.”
Josh Anderson had the opposite purpose for Montreal, which is able to look to repeat the feat in Sport 2 again at Scotiabank Area on Saturday within the groups’ first post-season matchup since 1979.
William Nylander replied for the Leafs, who acquired 28 stops from Jack Campbell in his playoff debut.
With Tomas Tatar within the penalty field for high-sticking and the Leafs trying to take the lead, Byron raced handed rookie defenceman Rasmus Sandin, who tried to tug down the Montreal ahead, earlier than roofing a shot upstairs on Campbell with 7:46 remaining within the third interval.
“Feisty participant,” Worth mentioned of Byron. “He’s a finisher.”
A bodily, intense begin to proceedings was dropped at a standstill halfway by means of the primary when Leafs captain John Tavares was concerned in a scary collision and needed to be stretchered off the ice.
“He’s aware and speaking properly,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned. “The assessments he’s had thus far have come again clear. He’s going to stay in hospital in a single day to bear additional assessments.
“It’s a giant loss for us, however we’ve acquired a lot of depth. Good groups overcome a majority of these issues. That’s going to be on us.”
The Canadiens acquired a lift with the return of Worth, captain Shea Weber (upper-body damage) and Brendan Gallagher (damaged thumb). The Leafs, in the meantime, had defenceman Zach Bogosian (upper-body damage) again within the lineup, whereas centre Riley Nash (knee) made his Toronto debut after being acquired previous to the commerce deadline.
Tavares was injured at 10:29 of the primary after taking an preliminary hit from Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot within the impartial zone that felled the veteran ahead earlier than he took an unintended knee to the face from onrushing Montreal winger Corey Perry.
“Felt sick to my abdomen,” mentioned Perry, who has performed with Tavares internationally for Canada. “Scary state of affairs.”
Trainers and medical doctors from each groups rushed to take care of the 30-year-old, encouraging him to remain on the ice as he struggled to rise up. Tavares supplied a thumbs up as he was stretchered off inside an empty and silent Scotiabank Area.
“I’ve skilled loads of various things, loads of powerful accidents like that in my time,” Keefe mentioned. “In an empty constructing like that, it’s in all probability essentially the most uncomfortable state of affairs I’ve been part of on the ice. It was actually powerful to get by means of.
“Our gamers have been rattled and anxious. I used to be clearly very involved.”
Though the damage was unintentional, Perry dropped the gloves with Leafs winger Nick Foligno as quickly as play resumed.
“Our captain’s laying on the ice,” Foligno mentioned of why he requested Perry to struggle. “It’s nothing greater than that. Perry obliged.
“It simply addresses the state of affairs and everybody strikes on.”
Montreal pushed the shock of the damage apart quickest and grabbed the lead at 12:08 when Anderson break up Bogosian and Sandin earlier than shifting in alone and firing in off Campbell’s submit.
“There’s lots on the road,” Anderson mentioned. “Finest time of the 12 months.”
With no playoff sequence win since 2004, the Leafs ended the interval on an influence play, however Worth was bailed out by one in all his posts on a shot by NHL purpose chief Auston Matthews.
Toronto, which had defenceman Jake Muzzin stretchered off in final summer time’s post-season bubble, tied it up at 4:28 of the second on a sequence that began with a terrific Foligno forecheck. Morgan Rielly’s level shot hit a physique in entrance and fell to Nylander, who slid his shot previous Worth.
Nylander had an amazing likelihood to place the house aspect in entrance on one other energy play later within the interval, however might solely discover iron.
Campbell, who acquired the beginning forward of Frederik Andersen following a record-breaking marketing campaign, then denied Tyler Toffoli along with his glove on one other man benefit.
Rielly blocked an Anderson likelihood early within the third with Campbell out of place earlier than the Leafs killed off a Mitch Marner penalty for delay of sport.
Nylander took one other delay of sport penalty — Toronto’s third of the night time — a few minutes later, however the Leafs managed to as soon as once more survive. Marner was then robbed by Worth’s blocker with the netminder at full stretch on a 2-on-1 with Nylander earlier than Byron buried the winner.
Toronto acquired an influence play with 3:18 left, however Worth stopped Nylander from the slot and Zach Hyman from in shut with Campbell on the bench for an additional attacker earlier than the guests closed it out regardless of extra strain at 6 on 5.
The vibe outdoors Scotiabank Area was nothing just like the leadup to a standard playoff sequence — particularly between two legacy organizations — as COVID-19 restrictions proceed to maintain followers in Canada from attending in individual.
Maple Leaf Sq., usually a gathering spot for rabid crowds to look at video games on a large out of doors display, had just some jersey-clad followers milling about a few hours earlier than puck drop.
Groups within the U.S. have all had some spectators at their playoffs video games, and the Canadiens have been given the inexperienced gentle by Quebec’s authorities to permit 2,500 followers into the Bell Centre for Sport 6 if the sequence goes that far.
Thursday’s tilt was the primary within the post-season between the groups in 42 years, and opened simply the third head-to-head sequence for the reason that NHL began to broaden again in 1967 after Toronto beat Montreal to safe the franchise’s final Stanley Cup.
This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Might 20, 2021.
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