Canadiens trounce Maple Leafs
Carey Price turned aside 32 shots, and the Montreal Canadiens hammered Toronto 5-0 on Saturday night after the Maple Leafs retired the number of longtime former captain Mats Sundin.
It was the third straight loss for the Maple Leafs, who remained in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Montreal has won four in a row and is seven points back of the postseason cutoff.
Erik Cole, Rene Bourque, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller and Mathieu Darche scored goals for the Canadiens (23-24-9).
The Maple Leafs (28-22-6) absorbed their worst loss since being beaten 7-0 by Boston on Nov. 5.
The night began with the Maple Leafs raising Sundin’s No. 13 banner to the rafters at Air Canada Centre. During a thoughtful speech, Sundin urged fans to embrace their young team because of how difficult it can be to play hockey in Toronto.
Less than two hours later, the Leafs were booed off the ice after two periods.
The Canadiens seized control during the second period in which they scored four times on seven shots against James Reimer. Cole started the barrage at 5:01 with a shot through the goalie’s legs, Bourque made it 2-0 less than two minutes later with a one-timer, and Pacioretty squeaked a shot past Reimer at 15:54.
That goal came with Leafs forward Tim Connolly in the penalty box for slashing – making it the first time in 18 games Toronto allowed a short-handed goal.
Eller made it 4-0 at 18:54 when he skated around Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and beat Reimer, prompting a loud series of boos from the sellout crowd.
Ron Wilson sent Jonas Gustavsson out for the third period, no doubt reviving the goaltending debate in the process. The Monster fared only marginally better, getting beaten by Darche on a breakaway just 1:29 into the period.
Price secured his fourth shutout of the season after two Toronto shots hit the post in the final period. He also stood tall during a late power play.
He had to be sharp in the early stages of the game. Price stopped Clarke MacArthur’s tricky shot in the opening minutes and denied Phil Kessel on a partial breakaway shortly after.
Reimer was also tested a couple times during the first period when the Leafs held a 14-8 shots advantage. He looked solid until Cole opened the scoring.
Just one week earlier, the Maple Leafs earned an impressive 5-0 victory in Ottawa and looked poised to make a climb up the standings. But after beating Edmonton on Monday, they lost at Winnipeg on Tuesday and at Philadelphia on Thursday. Now they face a tough three-game swing through Western Canada.
NOTES: It was Price’s 16th NHL shutout. … The Maple Leafs had $7.5 million in salary in the press box as Colby Armstrong and Mike Komisarek were scratched. Both players are alternate captains. Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski both wore an ”A” in their absence. … Travis Moen, Ryan White and Yannick Weber sat out for Montreal. … Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was among the announced crowd of 19,685.