It has been many moons since the Maple Leafs closed out a playoff series — 17 years’ worth of moons, to be exact.
They’ve had their chances since that first-round win over the Senators in 2004 (avert your eyes, Leafs fans): Game 7s in 2013, 2018 and 2019 and last year’s bubble Game 5. Now they have another chance to close out a series in a Game 5 as they host the Canadiens on Thursday night.
“We’ve played in those games before when it goes right down to the wire, last game of the series. Here tonight, I think we understand what’s at stake, the opportunity we have in front of us and what it’s going to take to get the job done,” said defenseman Morgan Rielly.
The Leafs will once again be without Nick Foligno, who has been out since suffering a lower-body injury in Toronto’s Game 2 win. They will also continue to miss captain John Tavares; however, he did skate before Thursday’s morning team session.
In their absence, Alexander Kerfoot has been elevated to the second line between Alex Galchenyuk and William Nylander. The trio has been producing; in the last two games, Kerfoot has four assists, Nylander has two goals and Galchenyuk has chipped in three points (goal, two assists).
Jack Campbell has been a steady presence between the pipes. He has posted an impressive .965 save percentage and a slim 1.01 goals-against average in the first four games of the series. He has outdueled 2015 Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Carey Price, who has a .920 save percentage in the series.
The Canadiens will need 2020 bubble Price in this one as they look to stave off elimination. In front of him, the team will need to produce more than it has. Over four games, Montreal has just four goals — Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Josh Anderson and Paul Byron. It has given up 12.
Erik Gustafsson has been slotted in to help boost the power play, which is 0 for 13. While that move makes some sense — Gustafsson has been known as a power-play specialist — many are left scratching their heads as to why young star Alexander Romanov has been shelved in this series.
For now, the Canadiens will have to rely on their veteran core, players like Corey Perry, Shea Weber, Eric Staal, Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson and Brendan Gallagher, all of whom have played in more than 50 playoff games. Perry, Staal, Edmundson and Toffoli have all won Cups, too.
Sporting News has all the action as the Maple Leafs look to close out their first-round series against the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
(All times Eastern)
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs score, highlights from 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs Game 5
Third period: Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 3
9:36 p.m. — And, we’re off to overtime.
9:21 p.m. — GOAL. Jake Muzzin drops the puck to Alex Galchenyuk and drives to the net where he actually redirects the shot past Price. Game tied 3-3.
9:10 p.m. — Tavares loved that one.
9:08 p.m. — GOAL. Jake Muzzin with a seeing-eye one-timer from the point that finds its way past Price. Canadiens lead 3-2.
9:08 p.m. — Maple Leafs don’t really get any good chances with the man advantage.
9:05 p.m. — Canadiens take a penalty as Gallagher gets called for interference on Marner. First Toronto power play of the game.
8:59 p.m. — Off the faceoff and it’s Kerfoot with the chance from the slot but Price again is there for the stop.
8:57 p.m. — Zach Hyman gets a breakaway on the first shift but he tries five-hole and is stoned by Price.
8:57 p.m. — Third period puck has been dropped.
Second period: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
8:39 p.m. — The second period comes to an end.
8:27 p.m. — Canadiens get a power play as Zach Hyman trips Nick Suzuki. First power play for any team in this one. Canadiens are 0-for-13 in the series with the man advantage.
8:23 p.m. — Eight minutes to go in the second period and the Canadiens are outshooting the Leafs 20-15.
8:10 p.m. — GOAL. Mitch Marner shows patience and drags Price out of the net. He puts the puck into the crease and it goes off Tyler Toffoli before Zach Hyman knocks it in. Canadiens lead 3-1.
8:08 p.m. — GOAL. Loose puck in the crease and Kotkaniemi stuffs in his own rebound. Canadiens lead 3-0.
8:06 p.m. — Save No. 12 by Price, this one on Mitch Marner from the high slot. Canadiens have 16 shots, by the way.
8:04 p.m. — Quick reminder: If the Canadiens do win this game, there will be 2,500 fans in the stands for Game 6 in Montreal.
8:03 p.m. — Price with another stop, this time he stops Kerfoot on a 2-on-1.
8:02 p.m. — The second period begins.
First period: Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 0
7:43 p.m. — End of the first period and, it’s fair to say, the Canadiens came to play.
7:39 p.m. — Carey Price comes out and makes a big-time save on William Nylander with less than a minute left In the period.
7:23 p.m. — Canadiens with a two-goal cushion and Price is on his game. This could get interesting.
MTL has been at Toronto’s net more in 8:16 of this first period than they have been all series.
— David Alter (@dalter) May 27, 2021
7:21 p.m. — GOAL. Joel Armia again! Off a scramble in front, the Canadiens forward pushes the puck past Campbell. Canadiens lead 2-0.
7:19 p.m. — Carey Price robs Mitch Marner as he cuts to the net on a 2-on-1.
7:17 p.m. — GOAL. Canadiens get the all-important first goal as Joel Armia steals the puck in the Leafs’ zone and puts it past Campbell. Canadiens lead 1-0.
7:16 p.m. — John Tavares is at the game.
7:16 p.m. — Maple Leafs with some pressure and Wayne Simmonds gets a good look off the bar.
7:12 p.m. — Cole Caufield with a good shot off the rush down the right wing that handcuffs Jack Campbell a little.
7:10 p.m. — Game on.
7 p.m. — Someone is superstitious.
#Leafs are 3-0 when starting a playoff game with Simmonds, Hyman and Matthews together. They will do it again for Game 5.
— David Alter (@dalter) May 27, 2021
6:45 p.m. — Lines are here.
#Leafs lines in warmup (Game 5 vs. MTL):
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 27, 2021
Pour l’instant, Erik Gustafsson connait une bonne période d’échauffement…
— J-F Chaumont (@JFChaumontJDM) May 27, 2021