Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) adjusts his helmet after the second goal scored by Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly (44) during second period NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Montreal, Monday, May 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Maple Leafs top Canadiens 2-1, take 2-1 lead in first-round playoff series

Maple Leafs top Canadiens 2-1, take 2-1 lead in first-round playoff series

MONTREAL — Morgan Rielly scored the winner and Jack Campbell made 27 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Monday to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

William Nylander, with his third goal in as many games, also scored for Toronto.

The Leafs, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2004, will look to go up 3-1 in this Original Six showdown in Game 4 back at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.

Nick Suzuki replied for Montreal, while Carey Price stopped 27 shots.

Game 5 of the best-of-seven matchup is set for Thursday in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.

First in the Canadian-based North Division during the NHL’s pandemic-shortened campaign, 18 points clear of Montreal, the Leafs remained without captain John Tavares, who’s expected to miss at least two weeks with a concussion and knee injury suffered on a frightening Game 1 collision.

Nick Foligno wasn’t on the ice for the morning skate — head coach Sheldon Keefe emphatically declared him fit to play — and took the warmup, but missed out with a lower-body injury. Riley Nash took his spot the lineup.

The Canadiens dressed rookie sniper Cole Caufield after generating just three goals in the first two games of the series in Toronto. The 20-year-old scored four times in 10 outings towards the end of the regular season, including one in overtime against the Leafs, following a dominant career with the U.S. National Team Development Program and two standouts seasons in the NCAA with the Wisconsin Badgers.

Toronto opened the scoring at 7:18 of the second period when Alexander Kerfoot, who was promoted to the second line with Foligno out, won an offensive zone faceoff back to Nylander. With two goals in as many games coming into Monday, the Leafs winger made it 3-for-3 with a quick shot that glanced off Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot and past Price.

After the Montreal netminder denied Pierre Engvall on the doorstep on a long Toronto shift in the Canadiens’ end, the home side started to find some life, and Suzuki eventually tied it at 13:56 when his shot off the rush beat Campbell under the blocker.

But Rielly restored the Leafs’ advantage 2:39 later when he took a pass from Mitch Marner and fooled Price upstairs before celebrating with teammates inside the fan-less venue.

Coming off a three-point night in Game 2, Auston Matthews was denied by Price on the doorstep before Marner was also stopped in close before a big scrum ensued, with the Canadiens earning an extra minor penalty, as Toronto outshot Montreal 20-7 in the period.

Caufield wired a shot over Campbell’s net on a chance midway through the third, and the Leafs goaltender was there again on another sharp-angle effort off the winger’s stick.

Campbell then stopped Josh Anderson, Tomas Tatar and Phillipe Danault in quick succession as Montreal pushed desperately to tie. Toronto defenceman Justin Holl then blocked a late Caufield chance as the Leafs held on to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Playing their first home playoff since April 20, 2017, the Canadiens got a four-minute power play early in the first when Alex Galchenyuk went off for high-sticking on Brendan Gallagher, but Caufield hit the crossbar on his first shot attempt.

After Campbell had to be sharp on a Gallagher 2-on-1 effort off a feed from Tyler Toffoli, Montreal lost winger Artturi Lehkonen for the rest of the night when he collided with Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin as both players were going for the puck midway through the period.

Price then robbed a double-clutching Jason Spezza with a ridiculous desperation stick save on a Toronto man advantage before also denying Kerfoot on another 5-on-4 chance.

Notes: Montreal winger Eric Staal sat out with an undisclosed injury, which spared Tatar being made a healthy scratch. … If there’s a Game 6 on Saturday in Montreal, the Quebec government will permit 2,500 fans into the Bell Centre — the first Canadian NHL crowd since the start of the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2021.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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