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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs Canadiens - 03/17/18

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens Saturday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

1. Nylander wires home powerplay goal to put Leafs ahead late in first. Seeing to extend their win streak to four games, the Leafs came out of the gate with a sustained push late in the opening period of Saturday's contest, outshooting their arch-rivals from Montreal 13-11 in the first 20 minutes and drawing the evening's first penalty.

And although Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren robbed Buds centre Tyler Bozak with an outstanding glove save on what looked to be a sure-thing goal into an empty net, Toronto continued to pressure the Habs and got the first goal of the night with 3:59 left before the first intermission: forward William Nylander won a faceoff, and after getting the puck back from blueliner Jake Gardiner, Nylander ripped a shot past Lindgren for a powerplay marker and his 15th goal of the year. The Leafs carried that lead into the second frame, and goalie Curtis McElhinney continued to perform well in net to preserve the advantage. 

2. Toronto doubles lead on Kapanen's breakaway marker. The Leafs amped up the energy in the second frame, dominating the period on the shot counter - outshooting Montreal 26-9 - and the only reason Toronto didn't have a four-or-five-goal advantage was due to the play of Lindgren.

That said, Lindgren couldn't perform magic, and the Buds' hard work paid off three minutes into the frame when blueliner Travis Dermott made a slick off-the-boards pass out of Toronto's zone and directly to winger Kasperi Kapanen; Kapanen used his speed to turn the pass into a breakaway on Lindgren, and he didn't miss, scoring his sixth goal of the season to put the home side ahead 2-0.

3. After disallowed Buds goal, Leafs strike again with man-advantage to extend lead to three goals. Toronto was all over the Habs in the second, and it looked as if they'd scored their third of the night when Kapanen flipped the puck over Lindgren and into the net while there was traffic in front of the goalie. However, Montreal challenged the play for goalie interference, and the officials ruled in favour of the Canadiens, disallowing the goal.

That did nothing to dissuade the Leafs from continuing to attack the Montreal zone, and after forcing the visitors into taking their third penalty of the game, Toronto got that third goal after all: with 28.3 seconds left in the period, winger Mitch Marner made a deft pass to centre Nazem Kadri, who deflected it into the net for the Buds' second powerplay goal of the night and Kadri's 28th of the year.

Montreal has had a difficult season on the injury front and were without a number of their veteran members Saturday. But Toronto's depth, speed and skill were too much for them on this night.
 

4. McElhinney thrives, sets new personal best for shutouts in a season. Appearing in his third consecutive game in place of injured starter Frederik Andersen, McElhinney again was stellar in net for the Buds. The veteran turned aside all 33 shots he faced to register his eighth career NHL shutout and his third this year, a new personal single-season best for the 34-year-old.

As Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has noted, McElhinney knows and accepts his role with the franchise, understanding he may go long stretches without playing, and then being called into action in the blink of an eye. The win Saturday improved his record to 10-4-1, and improved Toronto's record to 43-22-7. Andersen has been a workhorse and deserves credit for his huge role in that mark, but McElhinney has earned his share of kudos for doing his job with the utmost professionalism and skill.
 

5. Johnsson scores first NHL goal as Leafs earn victory, build momentum in advance of a short, but challenging road trip. Neither side scored a goal until 4:33 of the third period when winger Andreas Johnsson netted his first career NHL goal to put Toronto ahead by four. Playing in his second game in the world's best hockey league, the youngster was clearly elated to have scored, and the smile on his face stayed there after he got back to the bench and the Air Canada Centre crowd gave him a major ovation.

After a tough stretch at the end of February and start of this month, the Buds have gotten back on a roll and now have 93 standings points. That's just two points behind their total of 95 points in the 2016-17 campaign, and the Leafs still have 10 games remaining prior to the post-season.

This surge will boost Toronto's collective spirit as they prepare for a two-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Tampa Bay and finishes two nights later in Nashville. The Lightning and Predators currently are the league's top two clubs, so it will be a tough test for Babcock's squad. But the Buds have proven they can play with any team in the league - and they've beaten the Bolts and Preds this year - so Leafs Nation can expect terrific battles.

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