The Canadiens’ youngsters managed to erase a two-goal deficit in the third period on Saturday night at Budwesier Gardens in London, but the Maple Leafs’ prospects scored a late goal to secure a 4-3 victory in the second of three Rookie Tournament games for both clubs.
Daniel Audette opened the scoring for the Canadiens at the 5:21 mark of the opening frame, converting a feed from right-winger William Bitten on an odd-man rush that beat Maple Leafs netminder Antoine Bibeau. Defenseman Victor Mete – who patrols the blue line for the hometown London Knights – picked up the secondary assist on the play.
The Maple Leafs managed to tie things up before time expired in the first period, though, as defenseman Keaton Middleton’s wrist shot from the point managed to find its way through traffic to beat Canadiens starter Zachary Fucale with 2:53 to go.
Play opened up in the second period, particularly in the latter half of the frame. After right-winger Tony Cameranesi lit the lamp at the 12:20 mark to make it 2-1 for the Maple Leafs, left-winger Tobias Lindberg beat Fucale just 53 seconds later, capitalizing on a turnover in the offensive zone. Toronto outshot Montreal by a 19-8 margin during the middle period alone.
The Canadiens fought back early in the third period, making the most of a power play opportunity. Artturi Lehkonen tipped a Mete point shot beyond Bibeau at 6:26 to cut the Maple Leafs’ lead to 3-2. It was his first goal of the tournament. Nikita Scherbak collected the secondary assist on the play.
Just under six minutes later, the Canadiens made the Maple Leafs pay for getting in penalty trouble again as Michael McCarron scored his third goal of the tournament at the 12:13 mark. The rookie tournament captain collected a loose puck along the wall and proceeded to beat Bibeau on a highlight-reel power move to the backhand to tie things up 3-3. Scherbak and Fucale assisted on McCarron’s game-tying tally. Scherbak now has five points in the tournament, one goal and four assists.
Unfortunately, Andrew Nielsen’s managed to squeak a wrist shot past Fucale with just under two minutes remaining in regulation time to put the Maple Leafs up 4-3 for good.
Martin Lapointe’s troops will be back in action on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. EST against the Ottawa Senators’ top prospects. It will mark the Canadiens’ final game of the 2016 Rookie Tournament. They will then return to Montreal immediately after the contest.