Nylander breaks 3rd-period tie, Leafs beat Canadiens 2-1
TORONTO (AP) — William Nylander broke a tie at 1:06 of the third period and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Wednesday night in the opener for both teams.
In a rematch of Montreal’s seven-game victory in the first round of the playoffs last season, Toronto won in front of 18,493 masked and fully vaccinated fans in Scotiabank Arena’s first regular-season crowd since March 10, 2020.
“It was very special,” Nylander said. “Such a long time (since) we played with fans.”
Nylander took a pass from Morgan Rielly off the rush before faking a slap shot and high to goalie Jake Allen’s short side.
“The first 10 minutes we were not good,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Took us a while to really get comfortable in the game. From then on I thought the effort was really strong. The guys worked, competed. It was a tight game right to the end ... happy that we find our way to get on the right side.”
Jack Campbell made 31 saves for Toronto, allowing only Jonathan Drouin’s first-period goal. Pierre Engvall tied it on a power play midway through the second.
“Just incredible,” Campbell said. “The fans were just super loud and super into the game. “It’s great to see everybody back.”
Toronto star Auston Matthews, the NHL leader with 41 goals in 52 games last season, sat out because of a wrist injury that hasn’t fully healed from surgery.
Allen made 28 saves.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last week and will be away from the team until at least early November. Captain Shea Weber will miss the season with potentially career-threatening ankle and foot injuries.
Drouin returned after leaving the team in the spring to deal with anxiety and insomnia.
“It was nice to get one,” he said. “But I wish we got the two points instead. ... My head’s clearer. I’m more in the game, I’m more focused, I’m more ready. Going to the rink was a completely different experience for me than the past couple years.”
NOTES: The Canadiens dressed just 13 of the 20 players who suited up in Game 5 of the club’s Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in July. ... The 48th Highlanders, who have performed at every Toronto curtain-raiser since Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1931, kept the tradition alive virtually last season, and were back Wednesday with their pipes and drums on the ice prior to warmups.
Canadiens: At Buffalo on Thursday night.
Maple Leafs: At Ottawa on Thursday night to open home-and-home series.