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game recap

Maple Leafs clinch North, deny Canadiens from earning berth

Toronto pushes point streak to eight; Montreal has lost three straight

by Dave McCarthy / Independent Correspondent

Marner scorches goal off face-off

MTL@TOR: Marner gives Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead in 2nd

Mitch Marner gets the puck after a face-off win and unloads a quick release past Jake Allen for a 3-2 lead in the 2nd

  • 00:35 •

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched first place in the Scotia North Division and denied the Montreal Canadiens from clinching a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a 3-2 win at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.

It is the first division title for the Maple Leafs since 2000-01, when they won the Northeast Division.

"We felt really good about our team offensively but we knew we needed to get better defensively this season," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. "We were pretty close to the bottom of the League last season and 5-on-5 goals against, and this season we are up in the top five of the League. The team's commitment to defending, we got good goaltending even though we used four goalies, and the fact we were able to keep the puck out of our net I would say is the biggest reason we were able to be as consistent as we were."

Video: MTL@TOR: Engvall puts Maple Leafs on the board in 2nd

William Nylander scored to extend his point streak to seven games, and Jack Campbell made 21 saves for the Maple Leafs (35-13-6), who are 7-0-1 in their past eight.

"It's a good feeling," Toronto forward Mitchell Marner said. "It's something we wanted to try and do at the start of the season and set our goal to. Obviously it's not the ending goal we want, but it is step two of what we wanted to accomplish. Now we just have to make sure we keep going with the pedal down."

Brett Kulak and Nick Suzuki scored, and Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Canadiens (24-21-9), who have lost three in a row, including 5-2 here Thursday.

Montreal is fourth in the seven-team North Division. The Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets have three of the four playoff berths.

"We have to have better starts," Canadiens defenseman Jon Merrill said. "Tonight was a step in the right direction in that department, but I think we have to put together a complete game and get a win. That's when your confidence starts to build. You win a game, string a few together and you start feeling good."

Toronto trailed 2-0 before scoring three straight goals in the second period.

"We weren't good at all in the first period and that was disappointing," Keefe said. "We knew Montreal was going to be a lot better, they had a day off (Friday) so we knew they'd be better than when we saw them Thursday (on the second of back-to-back games). That's an area where our team grew this season, these types of games didn't get away on us, we got to work and climbed our way back."

Video: MTL@TOR: Tavares sets up Nylander for 2-2 tie in 2nd

Marner gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead at 16:33 of the second period with a shot from the top of the left circle after Auston Matthews won a face-off against Suzuki directly back to him.

"It's a face-off win," Marner said. "I was just trying to get it on and off my stick as quickly as possible and it found a way in."

Nylander tied it 2-2 with a shot from the left side of the crease at 13:36. He has three goals and four assists in his past seven games.

"I think [my game] has been pretty good," Nylander said. "We've been grinding for a lot of our goals, so it's nice to see those go in. Hopefully it continues here down the stretch."

Pierre Engvall scored in his third straight game, cutting the lead to 2-1 at 5:02.

"They had a pushback," Canadiens forward Eric Staal said. "We knew it was a possibility, but I just think they were attacking us a bit better and we didn't handle the pressure as well. But it was tight both ways. They got a break on a face-off play there, but we would have liked to have a better second and build on the lead that we had."

Kulak shot from the high slot at 3:34 of the first period to put the Canadiens up 1-0. Suzuki made it 2-0 31 seconds into the second period with a shot from the right face-off dot.

NOTES: The Maple Leafs have held first place in the North Division for 106 of 116 days this season. … Suzuki became the 10th player in Canadiens history to score his 80th NHL point at age 21 or younger. He has scored 26 goals and 54 assists in 125 games.

Video: Maple Leafs clinch North with 3-2 win over Canadiens

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