Carey Price stopped 30 shots as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in game seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs first round on Monday, storming back to engineer one of the biggest comebacks in recent NHL history.
Corey Perry’s power play goal off a deflection in the second period proved to be the winner as the Canadiens won largely thanks to Price’s brilliant netminding.
“This is the best team game that we’ve played this season,” Price said. “I thought we had a pretty good chance all series, and obviously when we won game five to get our second win we started gathering momentum, and we just kept at it and tried to keep that momentum going tonight.”
Price made a clutch save off Toronto’s Zach Hyman with 2:46 left in the third to preserve the two-goal lead.
Just one minute later, Tyler Toffoli scored into an empty Toronto net to make it 3-0 and seal the win for the Habs, who set up game seven with successive overtime wins in games five and six.
The Canadiens advance to the second round to face the Winnipeg Jets.
There were no fans for game seven at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena because of pandemic restrictions still in effect in Canada.
Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring for visiting Montreal early in the second period, firing a shot through the legs of Maple Leaf netminder Jack Campbell.
“It’s just tough,” Campbell said. “I just think of how hard our team battled and for it to end on the worst goal of my career, it happened in a game seven. It’s not acceptable. The team counts on me to be better, and I know I can be a lot better than that.”
The Leafs finally got on the scoreboard when William Nylander scored with 1:36 left in the third, but it was too little, too late for Toronto. The Leafs were the heavy favorites coming into the series, which was the first between the two storied Original Six rivals since 1979.
This marked just the second game seven between Montreal and Toronto, with the only other taking place in 1964.
All the pressure was on the Maple Leafs, who finished first in the North Division compared to the Habs, who placed fourth.
This latest playoff collapse is going to lead to plenty of soul searching in Toronto, who have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, the longest drought of any NHL team.