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article imageMaple Leafs earn fourth straight win over visiting Montreal Special

By Dave Pitman     Jan 19, 2014 in Sports
Toronto - One of hockey's greatest rivalries added a new chapter to its rich history Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre where the Maple Leafs prevailed 4-3 in a thriller.
With 19,667 in attendance, there were plenty of supporters from both teams eager to continue the Hockey Night in Canada tradition as the Leafs and Canadiens took to the ice once again. Their roots stem deep — both Toronto and Montréal are of the original six NHL teams and they've been rivals ever since the league's inception. They have faced off in battle a staggering 721 times. The Maple Leafs have a 292-332-88-9 record all time against 'Les Habitants.'
''If you don't get shivers and chills for Toronto and Montreal on a Saturday night on 'Hockey Night in Canada,' either in Montreal or Toronto, then I don't think you understand the true meaning of the game here in Canada,'' Coach Carlyle told media following the game.
More recently the Toronto Maple Leafs had dropped four straight games from January 4-10, but have turned things around in the last few weeks, winning four straight, a season-high consecutive games won.
Jonathan Bernier would get the start for the Maple Leafs. Bernier, a native of Quebec, grew up cheering for the Canadiens but hasn't been able to solve them when playing against them. In three career games vs Montreal, Bernier entered the game with an 0-3-0 record. On the other end, all-star goalie, and future Olympian, Carey Price, would tend net. Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson was put on the injured reserve on Friday afternoon. Clarkson cut his elbow open in a recent game and the wound has not healed they way the Toronto native had hoped. This opened a door of opportunity for Troy Bodie to have another shot with the Big Club. The Maple Leafs recalled Bodie from AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies early Saturday morning.
It was clear within seconds after puck drop, the sold-out crowd would not be disappointed. The building was electric, and the players responded as such. Trading chance for chance, Nazem Kadri broke down the wing with Montreal defence-man Alexei Emelin challenging, Kadri faked the shot and swung the puck through the legs of Emelin, making him look foolish in the process. Kadri then swung the puck through the slot to Cody Franson who finished the highlight reel play as the crowd of the ACC erupted. Kadri had been highly criticized lately by media for his lack of production as of late, but the 23-year-old centre silenced his critics on Saturday night. Montreal would rally back as an incredible Carey Price save on Joffrey Lupul built the momentum back up for the Canadiens. Working the puck on the power play, PK Subban's point shot bounced off a player in front, right onto the stick of Gallagher who slipped it past Bernier to tie the game. Subban, as he is known to do, taunted the Leafs bench after the goal. Subban recently took some heat when he taunted the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night after scoring the overtime winner.
The second period provided more excitement as the action went back and forth once again. Midway through the period, the speedy Toronto winger Phil Kessel broke out for a wide open breakaway but Price made a phenomenal save, one of his many highlight reel worthy saves of the night. Price couldn't save them all, though. Just minutes later, Mason Raymond broke to the net looking to pass but no lanes were available, Raymond showed excellent patience as he circled back and found a wide open Phil Kessel out front, and he rarely misses from there. The goal was a milestone for Kessel, who reached 300 career points as a Maple Leaf on the play. Montreal would take another penalty, sending the Leafs to the power play for the first time in the period. Entering the game, Toronto ranked 1st in the NHL on the Power Play while playing at home, but the Canadiens would counter with the NHL's best penalty-killing squad while playing on the road. but Toronto's excellent special teams play would prevail this time as Kadri made an excellent slap pass to a wide open Mason Raymond who buried it to take the lead 3-1. Toronto failed to keep momentum, however, as a Cody Franson turnover proved costly when Danny Briere scored with less than 12 seconds left in the period. 3-2 was the score after 40 minutes.
The scoring opened in the third period as a weak shot from the point was tipped past Bernier by Desharniers to tie the game up. Toronto would continue to apply pressure however. Tyler Bozak found James Van Riemsdyk out front to tip the pass past Price. Van Riemsdyk gave Subban a little taunt of his own following the goal, grabbing his jersey and waving the logo, just as Subban had done. Montreal would not get any closer and an empty net goal by Joffrey Lupul sealed the game as the Leafs took this one 5-3.
It was an emotional game, emotions that Maple Leafs forward James Van Riemsdyk kept well hidden until he scored late in the game.
"We weren't too thrilled about their first goal…" Van Riemsdyk told media after the game, referring to Subbans tautening. Van Riemsdyk mimicked Subbans taunts when he scored the eventual game winning goal in the third period. "Chirping our bench… If they want to play that game, then we'll play it too."
Captain Dion Phaneuf was pleased with the teams effort in the game.
"Tonight I felt that we deserved the two points, and we went out and got it." Phaneuf told reporters post-game. With all the players still mesmerized by Kadri's nifty play in the first period, Phaneuf added his praise to the young winger.
"He's got unbelievable skill" said Phaneuf of Kadri,
''I wanted to come out and have a big game,'' Kadri told reporters, ''Obviously the magnitude of this game was huge. For us to chase that top spot in the division is still a realistic goal for us.''
A realistic, but challenging goal. The Maple Leafs will need to bring more performances like Saturday night if they hope to clinch a play-off berth come April.
"It felt like a playoff game" said Jonathan Bernier after the game. Bernier was stellar in net for the Maple Leafs.
Toronto's big win moved them to within four points of the third-place Canadiens while still trailing the division leaders, Boston Bruins, by seven points. The Leafs will head west to start a busy road trip going back to back in Phoenix and Colorado the next night. Dallas and Winnipeg will await the Leafs after that until they return home Jan 28th versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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