Tomas Plekanec scored his second goal of the game with just 40 seconds left in regulation to lift the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener Wednesday.
Plekanec was the recipient of a lucky bounce that saw his winning goal deflect off the skate of Leafs rookie defenceman Stuart Percy and past Jonathan Bernier.
The goal was a heartbreaker to Leafs fans affter Morgan Reilly tied the game with 2:19 left in the third on a fluky goal that got through Carey Price.
Plekanec led the way for the Canadiens with his first two goals of the season while Alex Emelin and P.A. Parenteau finished the night with two helpers a piece.
The Maple Leafs found themselves in a hole early on in the game when Max Pacioretty cut through the Leafs blueliners and snuck a wrist shot under the catching arm of Bernier. The goal came on the Habs first shot of the game.
The buds would battle back to tie it after Nazem Kadri deflected the Brandon Kozun wrist shot over the catching-glove of Carey Price. The assist was the first career NHL point for Kozun, who cracked the opening day lineup after having a stellar training camp. The goal came with a little controversy as Kozun appeared to be offside on the play.
With 40 seconds left to go in the period the Maple Leafs capitalized on the power play on an impressive effort by Stuart Percy. Percy dumped the puck into the corner and was able to beat the Canadiens defenders to the puck before centering it to a wide-open Tyler Bozak who slipped the puck between the legs of Price to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead heading into the second. The assist was also Percy’s first NHL point.
However, the Leafs would see their lead disappear in the second after Plekanec was able to split the Leafs ‘d’ for a breakaway and slide a backhand under the pads of Bernier.
The game would remain tied until midway through the third. After the Leafs were caught running around in their own end, the puck came out to former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, who fired a wrist-shot blocker-side on Bernier.
Price made 24 saves on 27 shots for the win while Bernier turned away 28 of the 32 shots he faced in a losing effort.
Despite some impressive debuts from their rookies the Maple Leafs seemed to fall into old habits for much of the game Wednesday. The Leafs struggled to get the puck out of their own end on many occasions and at times it seemed like a daunting task just to get the puck to centre ice.
Both Randy Carlyle and newly acquired defenceman Stephan Robidas believe the buds got away from their game plan midway through the second period and it showed.
Despite leading the team in ice time Wednesday playing 23:31, it seemed like the Leafs plan to relieve Dion Phaneuf of some of his defensive responsibilities was in effect. The Leafs brought in Robidas and Roman Polak in an attempt to stabilize the back end while also giving more responsibilities to youngsters Reilly and Jake Gardiner. Phaneuf finished the night with one assist and a -1 rating.
The Leafs will be back in action Saturday night when they welcome Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Air Canada Centre. While the Canadiens now head to Washington to face Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals tonight.
Photo Credit: Canadian Press/ Frank Gunn
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