The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 7-1 tonight in the final home game of the regular season! A night filled with goals for the blue and white led to a special ending as University of Toronto goaltender Jett Alexander was given a minute at the National Hockey League level. It was a night Leafs fans will certainly remember and one filled with joy as they won by six over their long-time rivals.
In the opening period, it was all about the Toronto Maple Leafs, who absolutely dominated. After scoring two powerplay goals in the opening frame, one from Leafs star Mitch Marner and Leafs captain John Tavares the other. The blue and white took a two-to-nothing lead heading into the first intermission. The Maple Leafs were coming in waves at Montreal goaltender Sam Montembeault, but the 26-year-old was doing his best early. The Maple Leafs outshot the Montreal Canadiens eighteen to one after twenty.
The Montreal Canadiens looked like a completely different group in the second period. After getting out skated badly in the opening frame, the Canadiens bounced back, putting up a much better fight. Only 2:28 into the middle frame, Montreal defenseman John Kovacevic scored his third of the season. Once the Canadiens cut the Maple Leafs lead to only a goal, Maple Leafs star William Nylander scored his thirty-eighth of the year shortly after. Once the blue and white stole the momentum back, they weren’t done yet, as this time Mitch Marner added his second of the game and thirtieth of the season. After both sides began trading chances with each other, neither side could capitalize as the score remained 4-1 heading into the third.
Once the third period was underway, many expected the Montreal Canadiens to come out with a bit of a bite. However, that was not the case as the Maple Leafs tacked on another three goals in the final twenty. Starting things off was Maple Leafs captain John Tavares who scored his thirty-fifth of the season. A lucky bounce off teammate Ryan O’Reilly led to a golden opportunity for the Maple Leafs captain, who made no mistake with the chance. After the Leafs went up 5-1, Auston Matthews added his thirty-ninth of the season. The 25-year-old corralled the puck in spectacular fashion, putting it through the Canadiens defenseman’s legs before wristing one top corner on Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault. Just when the game looked out of reach for the Montreal Canadiens, Leafs forward Michael Bunting had to add one more. After another powerplay for the Leafs, a shot from up high caught a deflection off the 27-year-old’s stick, making it 7-1. This was Michael Bunting’s twenty-third of the season and his second point of the night.
After the blue and white put seven goals behind Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault, Leafs Head Coach Sheldon Keefe decided to make a special acknowledgment to University of Toronto goaltender Jett Alexander. With just over a minute to go, the Maple Leafs coach removed Ilya Samsonov in favor of the unusual Leafs backup, giving him the experience of a lifetime. The blue and white closed out a spectacular performance with an awesome moment, making this victory one of my favorites from the 2022-2023 season. The Maple Leafs will now look ahead to Monday night’s test against the hungry Florida Panthers. With the Cats battling for a spot in the postseason, the blue and white will have to come ready, as surely the Panthers will be at their best.
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