Leafs, Habs resume rivalry in Toronto
The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to improve to 3-0 against the rival Canadiens this season, as Montreal visits Air Canada Centre for tonight's clash between Original Six foes.
The Maple Leafs and Habs met twice back in October and Toronto recorded a win at home and on the road to give them victories in seven of the last 10 meetings in this series. Toronto has also claimed wins in four of the last five encounters at the ACC.
Toronto, which is just one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, had lost three straight in regulation before posting an easy victory Thursday against visiting Minnesota. Nazem Kadri scored less than a minute in and the Maple Leafs rolled to a 4-1 decision over the Wild.
Joey Crabb, Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski also found the back of the net for the Maple Leafs. Jonas Gustavsson made 20 saves in the win and surrendered Minnesota's only goal just 2:27 before the end of regulation.
"We had a good start," said Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "We understood the importance of the game."
Toronto had lost two straight to begin a five-game homestand before defeating the Wild and Wilson's club is 13-7-4 as the host this season. The Leafs will complete the residency on Monday when they begin a home-and-home series against the New York Islanders.
The Canadiens lost for the fifth time in six games on Friday, as they dropped a 5-4 shootout decision in Pittsburgh. Montreal held leads of 3-1 and 4-2, but the Penguins scored two unanswered goals in the third period to send the game to overtime. Evgeni Malkin tied the game at 4-4 for Pittsburgh with 2:43 left in the third and then scored the winner in the shootout.
In the second round, Malkin scored on a quick wrister to the left side for the lead. Andrei Kostitsyn broke his stick on his shot and Marc-Andre Fleury made a glove save on Scott Gomez's chance for the win.
Kostitsyn and Erik Cole each posted a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who have lost two in a row and are eight points behind Toronto in the standings. Peter Budaj made 34 stops in the loss.
"It's frustrating to blow a lead like that," said Montreal head coach Randy Cunneyworth. "We deserved a better fate like that, but that's what happens sometimes."
Montreal has lost four straight on the road and is just 9-12-2 as the visiting team this season. The Habs will play their next two games on home ice, beginning with Wednesday's test against Detroit.