MONTREAL — Jake Allen had a spectacular outing, frustrating the Toronto Maple Leafs with 49 saves to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-2 victory Saturday.
The day after the Canadiens (18-37-10) became the first NHL team eliminated from playoff contention, Allen gave them a chance to defeat their rivals.
Since coming back from a lower-body injury, Allen has played the last five games and recorded two 40-plus save nights.
The netminder was steadfast in saying that he wanted to help his team win going forward even with the playoffs out of the picture.
“I said to myself, ‘I want to come back’ and I didn't want to be a reason that this thing slipped,” Allen said. “I want to come back and really be a contributor and a leader here.”
“These guys right now make me excited for every game to play and even though we're out of the playoffs and we’re in last place, it doesn't really matter right now. We're playing for a lot more than that.”
Paul Byron, who netted the go-ahead goal late in the third period, said he was not surprised by Allen's performance because he's “played like that all year."
“I think he’s been one of our most consistent players all year,” Byron added. “He gives full effort every game and he made so many big saves to keep us in the game. Our first period wasn’t great, there was a lot of pressure in our zone and to be able to get into the second period at 1-1 gave us a lot of confidence.”
“In games like that against big teams, you need your goalie to be the best player," said interim coach Martin St. Louis. "That’s what he was tonight."
Byron rewarded his netminder’s efforts by scoring the eventual game-winner with just over two minutes to go. He skated the puck the length of the ice and waited patiently before beating Erik Kallgren between the pads.
Kallgren, who made 14 saves in the loss, argued that he “tried to play him but I knew he had other guys with him.” Ultimately, Byron took the shot and sealed the win.
“I wasn't surprised, but five-hole was probably his best chance to score there,” said Kallgren. “So it definitely sucks that he managed to.”
The loss stung a Maple Leafs (40-19-5) side looking to finish as high as possible in the Eastern Conference to avoid the league’s heavy-hitters in the first round of the playoffs.
“Obviously not happy with the result,” Kallgren added. “I definitely wanted to give the guys a good chance to win it. Definitely, definitely, stung.”
David Savard scored in back-to-back games while Cole Caufield and Christian Dvorak, into the empty net, added goals for Montreal. Savard and Byron each added a helper and Nick Suzuki notched two assists.
Auston Matthews and William Nylander scored while Mitch Marner picked up two assists for Toronto.
Byron took advantage of a Toronto turnover with just over two minutes to go in the game.
The Maple Leafs took 36 seconds to find the opening marker. Michael Bunting, sliding on his knees, found Matthews with a pass and the winger matched his career-high goal tally of 47 with a one-timer.
Dvorak thought he levelled the score for the Canadiens but Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe challenged the play for offside. The review showed Suzuki cross the blue line before the puck and the goal was overturned.
Savard finally tied the game 1-1 at 9:44 of the second when he caught Laurent Dauphin’s cross-ice pass and tapped in Montreal’s equalizer.
Caufield made Toronto pay for Justin Holl’s interference call with a go-ahead power-play goal. The winger notched his 14th marker of the season with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle at 18:08 of the second period.
Nylander made it a 2-2 game when he grabbed a loose puck in the slot, found his way around Allen and notched a power-play goal.
Dvorak finally got his goal back with the late empty-netter after Byron put Montreal up 3-2.
NOTES: Montreal lost Tyler Pitlick and Michael Pezzetta to injuries in the first and second period, respectively, and did not return. Both are ruled out of the Canadiens’ trip with upper-body injuries... Jesse Ylonen was recalled from AHL's Laval Rocket... Jonathan Drouin will seek a second opinion after aggravating a wrist injury picked up during Montreal’s 3-2 OT loss to the Boston Bruins to potentially avoid surgery. He remains in isolation after coming in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19... Montreal wore orange jerseys in the pre-game warmup for Indigenous Celebration Night. The national anthem was sung in French, Cree and English.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2022.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press