MONTREAL — In the midst of a horrendous season, the Montreal Canadiens gave their fans one glorious moment Monday night: A 5-2 thumping win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Interim head coach Martin St. Louis decided to pair two of his stars, Josh Anderson and Cole Caufield, on a line with Nick Suzuki and it paid off instantly.
Both Caufield (one goal, two assists) and Anderson (two goals, one assist) combined for three-point nights. On his end, Caufield notched his fifth goal in six games during St. Louis’ tenure.
“I think he trusts me,” Caufield said of St. Louis. “He’s putting me out there in situations to succeed and I’m playing with two great players too so that helps. He trusts my game and I think that's the biggest part for me. I just have to keep playing the right way and it’ll keep going like that.”
St. Louis compared Caufield and Anderson’s partnership to his relationship with former Tampa Bay Lightning teammate and new Canadiens special adviser Vincent Lecavalier.
“It’s important that these guys know that someone is looking out for them to not get manhandled on the ice,” St. Louis said. “What I like about Andy is his speed, obviously his size, but he can play the game too. It’s not just about adding size, you have to add someone who can complement them and someone that can stop the play. Tonight was a great example of what this line can do.”
“I think we all complement each other,” Anderson said of his linemates. “We all bring something different to the table and, for me, I'm just trying to find open space when they have the puck and try to create room for them too.”
The Maple Leafs (32-14-3) allowed five or more goals for their second straight game, losing both. For Auston Matthews, the Leafs need to look inward to find what went wrong on Monday night.
“I think we just made it difficult on ourselves,” he said. “They work hard and we know what to expect from their team. They’ve got good players on that side and we just didn’t bring it tonight.”
For Morgan Reilly, Toronto has allowed too many odd-man rushes from their opposition and they’ll need to go back to the drawing board to fix the issue.
“It's been a common theme,” he said. “I think if you look back at our last couple of weeks in terms of the chances against off the rush, as a defenceman you’ve got to take some responsibility on trying to make good defensive plays on those instances. But as a group, we’ve got to do a better job of trying to limit those.”
Jake Muzzin left the game injured and was taken to the hospital after an awkward collision with Chris Wideman. The defenceman won’t play in the second back-to-back games Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets and will stay in Montreal.
Rem Pitlick added Montreal’s fifth goal while Brendan Gallagher chipped in two assists giving Montreal a three-game winning streak. Samuel Montembeault made 35 saves from 37 shots.
Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall scored for the Maple Leafs. Petr Mrazek allowed five goals from 25 shots.
The Canadiens (11-33-7) broke the ice early thanks to Anderson’s presence in front of Mrazek’s net. The forward pushed off his defender and tapped the puck past the Toronto netminder.
Montreal ended the first period with a bang when Caufield scored on a one-timer from Anderson.
The Canadiens kept pouncing on their rivals with three goals in the second period.
Hoffman took 38 seconds to score in the second period. On the rush, Hoffman skated all the way down to the right faceoff circle and his shot deflected off Mrazek increasing Montreal’s lead to three goals.
Caufield and his linemate combined once again helping Anderson score his 12th of the season.
The Habs added another late second period goal when Brendan Gallagher sent a cross-ice pass for Pitlick on a two-on-one leaving the Leafs with a five-goal mountain to climb in the third period.
The Leafs attempted to climb that mountain with two quick goals in the third. Mikhevyev deflected Morgan Rielly’s shot from the point at 15:17. Then, Engvall’s wrist shot beat Montembeault 45 seconds later but Toronto ultimately ran out of time and left the Bell Centre with a 5-2 loss.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2022.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press