Jack Campbell made 32 saves to record his first post-season shutout, Alex Galchenyuk set up two goals and scored into the empty net against his former team, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 on Tuesday to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their first-round series.
Jason Spezza, with a goal and an assist, the red-hot William Nylander and Joe Thornton also scored for Toronto, which can wrap up this best-of-seven meeting between Original Six rivals at home Thursday in Game 5. Alexander Kerfoot had three assists.
Carey Price stopped 24 shots for Montreal. The Canadiens have scored just four times in 12 periods on Campbell in the first playoff meeting between the storied franchises since 1979.
Toronto is 11-1 all-time when leading a series 3-1 — a situation the Leafs haven’t found themselves in since 1987 — while 91 per cent of NHL teams have advanced in the same scenario all-time.
If the Canadiens can force a Game 6 back in Montreal on Saturday, the Quebec government will allow 2,500 fans into the Bell Centre, which would be the first NHL crowd in this country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
WATCH | Maple Leafs take 3-1 series lead on Canadiens:
Toronto opened the scoring 1:27 into the second period when Nylander shovelled home his fourth goal in as many games in the series after taking a slick behind-the-back feed in tight from Galchenyuk on an odd-man rush.
Selected No. 3 overall by the Canadiens at the 2012 draft, a resurgent Galchenyuk has found a home with the Leafs — the fifth club he’s suited up for since Montreal dealt him to the Arizona Coyotes in 2018 for Max Domi.
Campbell stopped Eric Staal at the other end on the next shift before Joel Armia fanned on a great chance later in the period. The Leafs broke the other way with Galchenyuk saucering a pass to Spezza, who was robbed by Price in Game 3 and stopped on a breakaway in Tuesday’s first period, for the 37-year-old to bury his second of the series on a 2-on-1 at 12:28.
The North Division’s No. 1 seed, Toronto kept its foot on the gas, and Thornton made it 3-0 just 2:28 later on a power play when he redirected a Spezza feed at the side of Price’s net. At 41 years and 327 days, the veteran forward became the oldest Leafs player to record a playoff point, passing both Ron Francis the late Allan Stanley (both 41 years, 62 days).
Thornton also became the oldest Leaf to score in the post-season, passing Patrick Marleau (38 years, 222 days).
WATCH | Maple Leafs’ Nylander extends playoff goal streak to 4 games:
The goal was Toronto’s third with the man advantage in the series after finishing the regular season a dismal 5 for 73.
Montreal’s anaemic power play — 0 for 11 in the series after two failed man advantages in the first — got another opportunity late in the period, but Brendan Gallagher’s shot that beat Campbell clanked off the post.
The desperate Canadiens pushed to start the third, with Campbell blocking Gallagher’s tipped effort before smothering the rebound.
A healthy scratch in Game 1, Galchenyuk iced it into the empty net to secure the first three-point playoff game of his career as the Canadiens now faces the daunting task of having to win three straight to keep their season alive.
The Leafs were minus captain John Tavares (concussion, knee) and forward Nick Foligno (lower-body injury), while defenceman Travis Dermott got the nod ahead of Rasmus Sandin, and centre Adam Brooks took Riley Nash’s spot.
Staal returned to the Canadiens’ lineup after missing Game 3, but Artturi Lehknonen, who left Monday’s contest in the first period, and Jake Evans, out for a third straight night, were both scratched.
Toronto got the game’s first chance when Spezza — robbed by Price on a spectacular stick save in Game 3 — moved in alone early, but was unable to beat the Montreal goaltender through the five-hole.
The Canadiens got those two man-advantage opportunities in the opening period’s latter stages. And while Montreal had better zone time and a couple decent looks, Campbell was never really threatened.
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