Cole Caufield did it again on Monday night, winning his second straight game for the Canadiens.
The rookie, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft, snapped a wrist shot past Toronto goalie Jack Campbell with 17 seconds left in overtime as Montreal beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 at the Bell Centre.
Caufield, playing in just his fifth game since being called up from the American Hockey League, also had the winning goal in overtime on Saturday against Ottawa. The win, the third in a row, all coming from behind, moved the Canadiens into a third-place tie with the Jets in the all-Canadian North Division. Winnipeg lost Monday, its seventh straight defeat, to the Senators.
Toronto entered the night with five consecutive wins but was denied what would have been a season-long sixth. Auston Matthews continued his march toward the Rocket Richard Trophy, burying another puck in an opponent’s net for a 2-1 lead in the second period.
The goal was the NHL-leading 39th for Toronto’s star centre and his 18th over the last 18 outings. He has goals in five straight games and has a 10-goal lead in the race to first over Edmonton’s Connor McDavid. Matthews has 12 game-winners in all, two more than McDavid, whose Oilers met the Canucks in a late-night engagement in Vancouver.
Matthews deflected a shot by Jake Muzzin past Montreal goalie Jake Allen with 2:39 left in the second period. Joe Thornton was also credited with an assist on the play. That extended the 41-year-old’s points streak to six games.
The loss dropped Toronto to 5-3 in eight meetings with Montreal during the COVID-abbreviated regular season. They play twice more, at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday and Saturday. After that, the Maple Leafs have only two more games – at Ottawa on May 12 and Winnipeg on May 14.
Jack Campbell had 20 saves in defeat, while Allen stopped 27 of 29 shots. Campbell is 15-3-1 on the season.
One dark cloud was cast over the effort for Toronto, which has already clinched first in its division. Nick Foligno, who had points in each of his first four games since joining the Maple Leafs in a trade with Columbus, skated off the ice gingerly late in the second period with an apparent injury. He did not return.
“I don’t have any word on him,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. He said the team is off on Tuesday, and Foligno’s condition will be evaluated again on Wednesday.
Montreal played without veteran defenceman Shea Weber, who missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. Carey Price, who has been plagued by the effects of a concussion incurred against Edmonton on April 19, is expected to skate on Tuesday and perhaps return to the lineup later this week.
The Maple Leafs, who are 24-5-2 when they score first, jumped out to an early lead. A wrist shot from Morgan Rielly from 65 feet out found its way past Allen fewer than five minutes after the opening puck drop. It was Rielly’s fifth of the year.
Montreal tied it early in the second period on Tyler Toffoli’s 28th goal of the season. Then Matthews scored. Toronto held onto the lead until Phillip Danault tied it with 52 seconds remaining. At the time, the Canadiens had their goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
Both teams squandered chances in the extra period, with Toffoli shooting wide on a breakaway and Matthews and Mitch Marner failing to score on a 2 on 0.
“I think we just overpassed it,” Matthews said. “I wasn’t really able to get my stick on it at the end. It’s late in the game, late in overtime. A little fatigue was setting in.”
The games on Thursday and Saturday are critical for the Canadiens, who are trying to push their way up the standings. Montreal has a game before those contests, Wednesday night in Ottawa.
Toronto will face the fourth-place team in the division in the first round, while the second- and third-place teams square off against one another. There is a distinct possibility that the Maple Leafs and Canadiens could renew acquaintances again in the postseason.
“We just had a meeting about that this morning,” Jake Muzzin said earlier Monday. “It is definitely something we have talked about and are thinking about. We are going to see these guys the next three games and maybe in the first round. It’s maybe a little introduction to the playoffs.”
Keefe said it was too early to worry about that.
“We aren’t looking beyond the fact that it is a three-game series for us [now with Montreal],” he said. “In terms of a potential playoff matchup, there are too many variables at play. There are a lot of different options for who we might face in the first round.
“All that stuff will get sorted out in time,”