NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 1st (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (32-22-7) at Montreal Canadiens (33-21-7), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Jonathan Bernier and the Toronto Maple Leafs will try to rebound from a shaky effort last time out when they visit a streaking rival in the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
The Maple Leafs were 5-1-1 in their previous seven games going into a matchup on Thursday night with the New York Islanders. Toronto, though, yielded three game-tying goals in a 5-4 overtime setback.
The Leafs saw Islanders forward Michael Grabner score twice shorthanded during the same Toronto power play, gave up a game-tying goal with 2:40 left in regulation and then yielded the winner 1:55 into overtime following a failed clear attempt.
"Gifts," said Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "I got no other way to describe the goals that we gave up. We were fortunate to get a point."
Phil Kessel, Paul Ranger, Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul scored for the Maple Leafs, who lost for just the fourth time in their last 15 games (11-2-2). James van Riemsdyk added three assists.
Bernier made 30 saves and is expected to start again tonight. He is 1-3-0 with a 3.29 goals against average in his career versus the Canadiens.
Continued production from Kessel could help Toronto make up some ground in the Atlantic Division, where it is tied for third with the Tampa Bay Lightning and just two points back of the second-place Canadiens.
Kessel scored five goals for the U.S. during the 2014 Winter Olympics and is tied for second in the NHL with 32 goals. He has tallied 12 goals and 29 points in his past 16 games.
The Canadiens have stayed in front of the Leafs by going 4-0-1 in their last five games and 7-1-2 in the past nine. They have three points in two games coming out of the break, dropping an overtime decision to Detroit on Wednesday before a 6-5 shootout win over Pittsburgh the following night.
Carey Price, who backstopped Team Canada to a recent gold medal, missed both games due to a lower-body injury he aggravated during the Winter Games. He was expected to miss at least two games but will sit out a third straight tonight.
Peter Budaj has made back-to-back starts in his place and is 3-1-0 with a 1.55 GAA lifetime versus the Leafs.
Budaj made 27 saves on Thursday before going perfect in the shootout and Montreal's David Desharnais had the lone tally of the tiebreaker.
Daniel Briere had two goals and an assist for the Canadiens, while Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and Alexei Emelin also lit the lamp.
"It's a fun way to win a game," said Briere. "I'm sure the coaches won't like that, all the goals scored against, but it's good for us and I know it sounds cliche, but what matters is we get a win."
The Habs next play on Monday, when they open a four-game road trip out west, and have lost two of three to the Maple Leafs this season. Toronto has won six of its last eight in Montreal.
03/01 10:26:26 ET