Toronto Maple Leafs beat Montreal Canadiens in home opener
By Neil Becker
Toronto Maple Leafs Jack Campbell continues to establish himself as a solid number one goaltender.
For the first time in 19 months, fans at Scotiabank Arena were in attendance and they saw some solid goaltending from Campbell who made 31 saves to lead the Leafs to a 2021-2022 season-opening 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Leafs, who were playing without star forward Austin Matthews, came out sloppy as they surrendered countless scoring opportunities only to be bailed out by several quality saves from Campbell.
Campbell, who last year put together a solid 17-3-2 record with a 2.15 G.A.A., received some heavy praise from teammate William Nylander following the opening night win. Nylander, whose third-period goal turned out to be the game winner couldn’t say enough about the always positive goaltender.
“He was on fire,” Nylander told The Hockey News. “Thank god he was a factor. It could have been 2 or 3-0 Montreal right from the start. We came out pretty slow.”
Naturally, the 48th Highlanders continued the tradition of performing on the ice before warmups. Last year, due to COVID-19, they performed virtually but this year they were back at Scotia Bank arena along with not only a near-capacity enthusiastic crowd but also anthem singer Martina Ortiz Luis.
“Right from the time I walked out onto the bench or the introductions it was just different,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe told CBC. “It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the place full like that. I thought the crowd was engaged right from the start.”
Fittingly it was Montreal forward Jonathan Drouin who scored the first goal as he took a first-period pass from linemate Josh Anderson before scoring the Canadiens only goal. What made this goal so special was that this was Drouin’s first game since last April 28th, when he had to step away and deal with some personal matters.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to do and I’m proud of what I’d done and happy I did it,” Drouin told TSN. “It wasn’t an easy thing to do and I’m proud of what I’d done and happy I did it. I’m 26 years old, so I wanted to do that at that point in my career and feel good for the next years.”
Approximately three minutes following Drouin’s goal, Leafs forward Pierre Engvall got the 18,493 masked and vaccinated fans cheering as he scored the first Leafs goal of the season.
Nylander grabbed the spotlight 1:06 into the third when after receiving a pass from defenceman Morgan Riely, Nylander rushed to the net before faking Montreal goalie Jake Allen before scoring the eventual opening night game-winner.
Obviously, it’s crucial getting off to a strong start, but the real test for Toronto will come in the playoffs. Another first-round loss will not be tolerated by Leafs Nation.