In what must surely be the lowest moment in the Montreal Canadiens season to date, the arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs walloped them, 6-0, at home in the Bell Centre Saturday. To add salt to the wound the game was on the CBC's annual Hockey Day in Canada.
It was a game that had everything - at least for the Leafs - including James Reimer's first shutout of the season, a 37-save effort, and Dion Phaneuf's hard-hits and first goal of the season. There was also Phil Kessel's second in as many games after going the first 10 games without scoring and a bevy of fights that showed the Leafs are no longer patsies. Those fights, as much as the goals and the shutout, may be the biggest story from this game.
“When you become a team and become close as guys, you want to stand up for each other,” Leafs John-Michael Liles said when it was over. “Ultimately, that was the big thing tonight.”
Maple Leafs: 60 minutes of hockey
It did not take long for the Leafs to get it going as Leo Kormarov, with his first career goal, scored on a great effort and a nifty pass from Nikolai Kulemin at the 59 second mark. Tyler Bozak made it 2-0 when James van Riemsdyk's pass gave him a shot at an open side of the net at 6:33.
In the second van Riemsdyk scored one of his own before Phil Kessel's power play goal, a hard shot from 15 feet out that left Carey Price with no chance; Kessel ended the night with a goal and 2 assists and sits at 2-8-10 on the season, creeping up on managing a point a game pace.
The big story of the period was Reimer, who weathered the storm when Montreal decided they were interested enough in the two points to try and get back in the game. Reimer made 20 stops in the second alone - Roberto who? - effectively paying Montreal back for last season, when he suffered a concussion in the Bell Centre after Brian Gionta plowed into his head.
Maple Leafs and Canadiens play rough
It was the third where the fireworks started. There were goals, Korbinian Holzer and Phaneuf bumped it up to 6, but the story was the rough stuff. In all the third alone featured a combined 94 minutes in penalties, including 11 majors, 6 of them fighting majors, 5 majors for spearing and 5 misconducts.
Brandon Prust and Mark Fraser fought a minute in, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Kostka at 7:59 and Josh Gorges and Frazer McLaren got into it late. For the Canadiens, Max Pacioretty got a spearing major and a misconduct, while in addition to his fighting major Brandon Prust got 2 roughing minors, a spearing major and a misconduct.
Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr were involved in rough stuff for the Leafs and Mikhail Grabovski wound up with a roughing minor, a major for spearing and a misconduct. After the game there was a claim from Pacioretty that Grabovski bit him on the arm during a scrum but the video evidence was inconclusive; reportedly Grabovski is to face a hearing Sunday with NHL disciplinarians.
Toronto, Montreal in playoff positions
Having tarnished a strong start with three straight losses, the Canadiens head out on the road for games in Tampa Bay Tuesday night and Miami against the Florida Panthers Thursday before returning home to play the Philadelphia Flyers back on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday. Montreal is 6-4-1 for seventh after 11 games.
Toronto now goes home after winning all three on a road trip; the Leafs are 7-5 in fifth place in the East (they're 6-1 on the road but have just 1 win in 5 at home) They play the Flyers on Monday at the ACC. The Montreal game was the Maple Leafs' 12th, the quarter-pole of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
After the game, Habs coach Michel Therrien complained about the way the Leafs played the third period while Toronto coach Randy Carlye essentially said 'get used to it' and that the Leafs would respond in kind when teammates were targets.