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Late Goal Edges Leafs In Home Opener

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Montreal Canadiens got a pinball goal to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener.

Tomas Plekanec banked a shot off the foot of rookie Leafs defenceman Stuart Percy with 43 seconds left to give the Canadiens a 4-3 victory Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.

Plekanec's second goal of the game came not long after Morgan Rielly tied it for Toronto in a back-and-forth game that will be another chapter in the long-standing rivalry between these teams.

P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty also scored for the Habs, who have a handful of new players a season after going to the Eastern Conference final. Goaltender Carey Price finished with 24 saves.

Rielly, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak had the Leafs' goals. Brandon Kozun, who was making his NHL debut, had the shot that Kadri tipped in for his goal, and Percy, who was also playing his first NHL game, set up Bozak. Jonathan Bernier stopped 28 of the 32 shots he faced.

Once the 48th Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums were done their annual tradition of playing at the Leafs' home opener, the new introduction video featured a speech by actor Will Arnett and the arena showed off spectacular new on-ice video projections.

Then it was time to drop the puck on the NHL season.

The Leafs had the game's first five shots and dominated the play early thanks to a particularly strong shift by the second line of Joffrey Lupul, Kadri and Kozun. But the Canadiens made their first one count.

Pacioretty turned on the jets to get around Dion Phaneuf and went five hole on Bernier to make it 1-0 Montreal 4:42 into the game. Pacioretty's goal was the league's first in 2014-15, coming at 7:32 p.m. Eastern time before the Flyers and Bruins got underway in Boston.

Bernier made a right pad save on Plekanec a few minutes later to keep the Leafs' deficit at one. Then Kozun made an impact on his fourth-career NHL shift by taking a shot that Kadri deflected past Price to tie the score at 8:04.

The Habs had a couple of chances to take the lead back, once on a delayed penalty call and an ensuing power play that went nowhere, and then on an uncontested shot by Nathan Beaulieu when the defenceman rang it off the post.

After James Van Riemsdyk drew a penalty driving to the net, the Leafs got another contribution from a rookie as Percy found Bozak for a power-play goal with 38 seconds left in the first period. That made it 2-1 Toronto.

A perfect outlet pass by Alexei Emelin helped tie things up again 4:34 into the second when Plekanec waited out Bernier and tucked a backhander by him.

When Montreal's Tom Gilbert clipped Daniel Winnik in the face with his stick, the Leafs got a four-minute power play at the end of the second and beginning of the third. Tyler Bozak had the best chance with time running out, but Brandon Prust may have gotten away with interference in preventing an almost sure-fire goal.

Subban gave the Habs the lead at the 8:41 mark of the third period at the end of a long shift for the Leafs' top line of van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Phil Kessel. Subban fired a perfect shot by Bernier and celebrated with a fist pump.

Rielly tied it at 17:41 by throwing the puck on net and getting a fortuitous bounce. It looked like it would force overtime until Plekanec scored at 19:17.

Notes — The Leafs and Canadiens played on opening night for the sixth straight season. ... Winger Jiri Sekac made his NHL debut for the Canadiens. ... The crowd of 19,735 gave Walter Gretzky a nice ovation when he was shown on the video boards on his 76th birthday. ... The first three Leafs players honoured on Legends Row — Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower and Teeder Kennedy (represented by son Mark) — dropped the pucks for the ceremonial faceoff.

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