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Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander (88) celebrates his goal with teammates Alex Galchenyuk (12) and Alexander Kerfoot (15) during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens, in Montreal, on May 25, 2021.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

After scoring in his third straight playoff game on Monday, William Nylander joked that he was born confident. That will surely rankle those who criticize the Toronto winger’s customary swagger, but you have to say this for the guy: He is unapologetic and certainly on a hot streak.

Nylander scored on Tuesday for the fourth straight game as the Maple Leafs took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Canadiens in their best-of-seven postseason series. Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton and Alex Galchenyuk also had goals in the 4-0 victory at the Bell Centre.

Toronto needs only one more win to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004. The next game between the longtime National Hockey League rivals is Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.

Nylander entered the night with a three-game streak in the playoffs for the first time in his career. When he extended it to four with a backhand in the second period, the 25-year-old winger became just the fifth Maple Leafs player in the expansion era (since 1967-68) with a four-game goal streak in postseason. The only others to do it are Auston Matthews twice, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. Andreychuk did it in 1993 en route to a club-record five consecutive games.

Nylander scored after a pretty no-look pass from Galchenyuk to put Toronto up 1-0 less than a minute and a half into the second period. It was enough to doom the Canadiens, who have just four goals through four games.

Alexander Kerfoot, who is the centre on Nylander’s line, had an assist on the first goal and another later. He is becoming more and more used to his linemate’s prodigious output.

“He is an elite player,” Kerfoot said during a media availability two hours before the start of Game 4. “When I play with him, I want to get it to him in good areas. I just want to complement him the best I can.”

Nylander had only three goals in his first 20 playoff games but has had six in nine games since. He has come on strong since John Tavares, the Maple Leafs captain, was hurt in the opening game of the series.

“He has really led the way,” Spezza said. “You can tell he has taken on a leadership role since John went down.”

Jack Campbell had 32 saves in his first postseason shutout. He entered the contest 2-1 in the series with a .951 save percentage. That last number is hard to improve on, but that he did.

Campbell has outplayed Montreal’s Carey Price, a certain future Hall of Famer. Does anyone even remember Frederik Anderson at this stage?

Montreal had scored one goal in each of its two previous losses. This time Price got no help at all. He stopped 24 of 27 shots. The game could have been called as soon as Nylander put Toronto on the board.

Teams that take a 3-1 lead have won 91 per cent of the best-of-seven NHL playoff series ever played.

The first period was evenly played. Price, who has played well overall, thwarted a backhand by Ilya Mikheyev 90 seconds in. Price then used his pad to block a shot from Spezza that looked destined to give Toronto the lead. Instead, the contest was scoreless after 20 minutes,

After Nylander put the Maple Leafs ahead early in the second, Spezza avenged Price’s earlier save by flipping a puck over the goalie into the back of the net with 7:32 left in the second period.

“He is probably the best goalie of our generation,” Spezza said of Price. “You can’t get frustrated when saves are made. You have to stay with it.”

Galchenyuk had an assist on Price’s, too. Thornton, the Maple Leafs’ veteran centre, added to the lead a little more than two minutes later when he tipped in a pass from Kerfoot. The power-play goal followed a cross-checking penalty on Montreal defenceman Ben Chiarot.

The period ended 3-0.

Galchenyuk added an empty-netter with 3:31 remaining to close out the scoring. Together, the Galchenyuk, Kerfoot and Nylander line had seven points. Kerfoot had three by himself.

An economics major when he attended Harvard, the latter said beforehand he understood how important a victory would be for Toronto, and how damaging it would be for Montreal.

“A win tonight would be big,” he said. “Going home up 3-1 would be a big step for us.”

He said the Maple Leafs would not be caught unaware by the Canadiens.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Kerfoot said. “Our focus has to be dialed in the same as it has been the last little while. We realize the importance of this game. I don’t think by any means that we are going to anything but bring the same mindset.”

They did, and now they are on the verge of winning the series. They have won three in a row for the first time in postseason since 2002. Montreal has only the faintest hope.

This has been done without any goals from Matthews or Mitch Marner, and with Tavares out of the lineup. On Tuesday, a 41-year-old and a 37-year-old in Spezza, each scored. Galchenyuk, cast off by Montreal and a handful of others, had the first three-point playoff game of his career.

This is what good teams do.

“Normally you would be happy to split two games on the road, but we felt greedy after winning the first one [in Montreal] on Monday,” Thornton said.

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