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William Nylander and the Leafs make quick work of misfiring Canadiens

Montreal's ugly 5-1 pre-season loss at the Bell Centre featured a lot of errant passes, bouncing pucks and an ineffective power play.

Author of the article:

Pat Hickey  •  Montreal Gazette
Maple Leafs' William Nylander scores on Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen at the Bell Centre on Monday.
Maple Leafs' William Nylander scores on Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen at the Bell Centre on Monday. Photo by Peter McCabe /The Canadian Press

William Nylander scored twice and added an assist as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-1 Monday night at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens fell behind early after Jonathan Drouin was whistled off for hooking Nicholas Robertson in the opening minute of the game. That provided the veteran-laden Toronto power play an opportunity to do its thing and Mitch Marner set up Nylander for a 1-0 lead.

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Zach Aston-Reese made it 2-0 at 8:40 after defenceman Corey Schueneman had trouble handling a bouncing puck in the Canadiens’ zone. Justin Holl corralled the loose puck and set up Aston-Reese, who beat Jake Allen with a quick wrist shot.

The Canadiens had a power play midway through the period, but it was wasted because Montreal had difficulty entering the zone and, on at least three occasions, errant passes resulted in the puck going out of the zone. The power play went 1-for-4, coming up empty on a 5-on-3 advantage for 52 seconds in the third period.

Nylander scored his second goal at 5:52 of the second period. Robertson emerged with the puck from a scrum along the right boards and found Nylander alone in front. The Swede faced Allen in a one-on-one situation and tucked a backhander under the crossbar.

Seconds later, rookie Juraj Slafkovsky tested Matt Murray with a one-timer off a drop pass, but Murray challenged the Slovak and came up with a good glove save. Last week, general manger Kent Hughes said Slafkovsky’s play through the rookie camp and the first week of regular camp was underwhelming, but this game was the best effort from first overall draft choice. Playing with Kirby Dach and Mike Hoffman, he skated with confidence. He launched eight shots, four of which found the net, two were blocked and two were high and wide.

Drouin, who is recovering from his third wrist surgery in as many years, played on a line with newcomer Sean Monahan and Josh Anderson. Drouin scored the Canadiens’ lone goal on a scramble in front of the net during a third-period power play. It was his first shot of the night and he had two giveaways. Slafkovsky got the puck to the net and earned an assist for his first point in the pre-season.

Nylander added an assist of Alexander Kerfoot’s third-period goal and Kerfoot added a power-play goal with 1:18 to play.

While the game was played at a quick pace, the Bell Centre ice didn’t live up to its reputation as the best in the NHL. The puck bounced far too much and there were numerous instances when players lost their footing.

The Canadiens are back on the ice Tuesday when the Ottawa Senators visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN-690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Montreal wraps up the pre-season with two Kraft Hockeyville games against the Senators. They play Thursday in Gander, Nfld., and Saturday in Bouctouche, N.B.

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