Habs return home after earning split in Toronto

MONTREAL – Canadiens defenceman Brett Kulak feels his team lost focus “a little bit” in a Game 2 loss to Toronto when the calls weren’t going Montreal’s way.

He’s hoping a return to Bell Centre for Monday’s Game 3 will see the momentum swing back in his team’s direction.

“When we’re at our best, we’re hanging on to the puck and we’re making plays,” Kulak said Sunday. “We’re using each other and we’re wearing the other team down over the course of the game and then they start to crack. So that’s what we want to get back to.”

Auston Matthews had a three-point night for the Maple Leafs in their 5-1 victory on Saturday night.

Toronto scored on two of six power-play opportunities. Montreal did not score on its lone chance with the man advantage.
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“If we can work hard and play with the puck, we’re going to draw more penalties than we take,” Kulak said. “That’s kind of our goal. It keeps the flow of our game and keeps us at our best.”

The Canadiens, who opened the series Thursday with a 2-1 victory at Scotiabank Arena, will also host Game 4 on Tuesday night.

It’s the first Montreal-Toronto NHL playoff series since 1979.

“We’re happy to be back home,” Kulak said. “We’re happy to get one on the road there. It’s not easy. It’s tough hockey in the playoffs. Toronto (is) a good team too. We played them well, we thought, and we’re excited to get back at it here at home.”

The Maple Leafs lost captain John Tavares in Game 1 after a frightening collision with Montreal’s Corey Perry. Tavares suffered a concussion and a knee injury and is expected to be out for at least two weeks.

“I think any time your leader goes down, it’s a reality check,” said Toronto defenceman Zach Bogosian. “Everyone has to step up and everyone has to do their job. You can’t replace John from a leadership standpoint but also a player standpoint.

“But you can have guys step up and take on bigger roles.”

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Also Sunday, Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber was fined US$5,000 for cross-checking Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds midway through the second period of Game 2.

Toronto’s victory ended a nine-game losing streak against Montreal in the post-season.

The last Maple Leafs’ playoff win over the Canadiens came in 1967 when Toronto won Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2021.

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