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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Apr 5, 2024 2:49 pm

Canadiens aim to play spoiler in clash vs. Maple Leafs

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Although eliminated from playoff contention, the Montreal Canadiens can make things uncomfortable for the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

The Canadiens (29-34-12, 70 points) officially were eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday following their 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning moved to within two points of the third-place Maple Leafs (43-23-9, 95 points) in the Atlantic Division with the victory. Tampa Bay defeated Toronto 4-1 on Wednesday. The loss to the Lightning prevented the Maple Leafs from officially clinching a playoff spot.

Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis put a positive spin on the setback against Tampa Bay.

“There are a lot of good things to celebrate about this season,” he said.

The Canadiens fell behind 6-2 to the Lightning after two periods before scoring twice in the third. Tampa Bay, however, sealed the win with an empty-net goal.

“It’s just that you have to be alert on the ice, you’ve got to stay engaged mentally,” St. Louis said. “Our floor has definitely risen this year. but tonight, it kind of dropped a little bit in the second (period). But to me, I see it as a one-off, I don’t think it’s a trend. I don’t think so. I think we’ve been playing pretty solid for the most part. We haven’t had a period like that in a long time. It’s unfortunate to have that against that team, and I felt that we gave them a couple of gifts for sure. It’s not like they were coming end-to-end, breaking us down, we were making mental mistakes and, on top of that, we put them on the power play a lot. Everything that could go wrong in the second went wrong.”

“That’s the difference between teams that miss the playoffs and the really good teams in this league,” said Brendan Gallagher, who had two assists for Montreal on Thursday.

“To be able to go through an 82-game season, you’re going to have to make sure that your floor is high and that you’re going to win games, win periods, win shifts when you might not feel your best. We had good energy, we had good jump, but that was just a matter tonight of not being as sharp as we have been.”

As the Maple Leafs jockey for postseason seeding, Auston Matthews continues his pursuit of a 70-goal season.

Matthews scored his league-leading 63rd goal on Wednesday.

“There’s some excitement there for Auston and the year he’s had, but I don’t think it’s overdone or anything like that,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said on Wednesday. “You can see guys looking for him on the ice. But it’s generally not a bad idea to look for him. So, you’ve got to recognize that’s going to be part of the deal. But you don’t want to change your game or change the focus. And that’s not the focus for me.

“I talked to Auston, and that’s not the focus for him. He wants to finish the season strong; he wants to be feeling good; he wants to have energy through this last stretch and going into the playoffs. And that’s really the goal for our team — to have our game in order and be as healthy and rested as possible as we finish this last push.”

The Maple Leafs expect to have Mitchell Marner (ankle) back in the lineup Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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