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Five Takeaways - Leafs @ Canadiens - 09/27/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-2 pre-season victory over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday at Videotron Centre in Quebec City:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Prospect-heavy Leafs lineup shows energy to start game, but Canadiens take first lead on Drouin goal. The Leafs beat Montreal 5-1 at Ricoh Coliseum Monday, but a drastically different Toronto lineup - featuring mostly young players and NHL prospects - was in Quebec City Wednesday to square off against the Habs again. This version of the Buds began the game carrying the play in the Canadiens' zone, but it was the home team that got on the scoreboard first when centre Jonathan Drouin got into a breakaway position after a pass from teammate Shea Weber and roofed a backhand shot past goalie Curtis McElhinney 5:09 into the first period.

The Buds outshot Montreal through the first 20 minutes, but they learned a lesson: when Carey Price is in net for the Habs, shot volume doesn't really matter. It's about shot quality, and in that regard, the Canadiens had the best shot of the opening frame, Drouin made it count - and forward Andrew Shaw made it 2-0 just before the intermission to give Toronto a bigger hole from which to climb out of.

 

Video: TOR@MTL: Borgman takes the lead on a point blast

2. Toronto storms back in middle frame with trio of goals from blueliners. Toronto continued winning the shots-on-net battle, outshooting the Canadiens 22-7 by the 10-minute mark of the second period, but the middle frame was much kinder to Leafs shooters, as three Buds defencemen scored in the period to give the visitors a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

The first Leafs goal came 57 seconds into the second, with Toronto on a 5-on-3 power play; D-man Connor Carrick moved in toward Montreal's net and fired a shot just outside the faceoff circle that beat Price to cut the Habs' lead in half. The tying goal was scored by blueliner Martin Marincin with 4:14 remaining in the period when Marincin's shot from the blueline went through traffic and evaded Price. And the go-ahead marker was scored by newcomer Andreas Borgman with 2:35 left in the second on another slapshot that Price couldn't locate amid the traffic in front of him.

The Leafs' defense corps has a number of incumbents who weren't involved in Wednesday's matchup, but with youngsters including Borgman, fellow Swede Calle Rosen, and blueliners with NHL experience like Carrick and Marincin, the competition for jobs is as intense as it is among Toronto's group of forwards.

Video: TOR@MTL: Johnsson buries Greening's feed for PPG

3. Johnsson's early third-period marker puts Buds in control as penalties continue to hurt Habs. The Canadiens found themselves in penalty trouble again in the third period after captain Max Pacioretty took a slashing minor at the end of the second, and once again, Toronto capitalized on the opportunity: winger Colin Greening took the puck behind Montreal's net and made a solid pass to winger Andreas Johnsson, who immediately knocked it past Price to put the Leafs ahead 4-2 at the 1:22 mark.

The goal was Johnsson's third point of the night, a nice reward for the 22-year-old, who posted 20 goals and 47 points in 75 games with the American League Marlies last season. The Swedish native is one of several young Leafs prospects who've shown they've got the talent to compete at and above the AHL level, and a performance like the one he put on Wednesday can only help Johnsson's confidence.

Video: TOR@MTL: McElhinney stops Gelinas, loses skate blade

4. McElhinney overcomes early Canadiens goals to put Leafs teammates in position to come back, win. For the second straight game, Toronto's goaltender played the entire contest - Frederik Anderson looked terrific in Monday's victory - and on this night, McElhinney got better as the game unfolded and made several outstanding stops in the final two periods to allow his teammates to get back into the contest and eventually take the lead.

McElhinney was a late-season acquisition for Toronto last year, winning six games in 14 appearances and posting a .914 save percentage. The 34-year-old will likely play the second of back-to-back games in Toronto's schedule this year, and if he can provide the resilience he did on this night, head coach Mike Babcock and Leafs management will be pleased.

5. Leafs fend off Habs push late in regulation to win fourth game in a row, build momentum for final pair of pre-season contests against Wings. The Canadiens fought until the final buzzer, and McElhinney had to be focused to prevent them from scoring on a late power play and with Price pulled for the extra man, but Toronto pulled out the win to register their fourth consecutive victory of the pre-season.

That win streak gives the Buds momentum as they prepare to head to Detroit and take on the Red Wings Friday night before coming home the following evening and battling the Wings again Saturday at Ricoh to close out the pre-season. With the start of the regular season just a week away, Babcock, GM Lou Lamoriello and the rest of Leafs brass have some extremely difficult roster decisions to make - a great sign for both the present and the future - and these final two pre-season games will help determine who stays on the NHL roster and who begins the season with the Marlies. And the strong showing Toronto's youngsters put forth Wednesday was the latest in a steady sequence of positives for the franchise moving forward.
 

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