Canadiens seek to maintain series mastery vs. Leafs

The Montreal Canadiens have a 26-game sprint to the season's finish line to determine whether they will reach the playoffs.

The Canadiens continue that push at home on Saturday in an Original Six matchup. The most storied rivalry in Canada and perhaps the entire NHL takes place for the third time this season when Montreal hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Montreal has played an Eastern Conference-high 56 games, so it may have to count on its recent mastery of Toronto to boost its postseason hopes.

In the Canadiens' second game this season, a wild affair at Toronto on Oct. 5, the home side took a 4-1 lead early in the third period before Montreal stormed back with goals by Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry and Phillip Danault for a late 5-4 lead.

However, with the Toronto net empty and an extra skater on, Auston Matthews tied it at 5 to force overtime. Paul Byron netted the only marker in a shootout to give the Canadiens their first win of the new season.

The Canadiens followed that up three weeks later with a 5-2 home win over the Maple Leafs. Drouin, who has missed the past 37 games with a wrist injury, scored twice -- his only multi-goal game this season -- and goalie Carey Price defeated Toronto for the second time in a row.

Montreal has won three straight overall against its Atlantic Division rival. The teams will face each other for the final time on April 4 in Toronto to close out the campaign.

The Canadiens have won six of their past eight contests overall in pursuit of a wild-card spot, including a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night courtesy of Petry's overtime game-winner during a strong rush.

"A win's a win," said Petry, whose team is 8-3-0 since losing eight straight. "At this point of the year and the situation we're in, we'll take any win any way we can get them."

While Montreal played its first game without injured defenseman Shea Weber (lower body), Toronto was welcoming players into the fold Friday night as it earned a 5-4 overtime victory against the Ducks.

Goaltender Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford were acquired from the Los Angeles Kings by Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas after No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen (upper body) was hurt against the Florida Panthers on Monday.

Backup Michael Hutchinson allowed three goals on 13 shots while finishing up the 5-3 loss to the Panthers, then he gave up four goals on 34 shots in a 5-3 defeat to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Those performances led Dubas to make the move for Campbell, who has two years left on his contract.

"The key is we didn't panic," Dubas said. "We knew what our prices were. Other teams knew other goalies were available."

Campbell allowed four goals on 30 shots on Friday for the victory over the Ducks. John Tavares' second goal of the game, in the closing seconds of overtime, was the winner.

Andersen will sit out again Saturday. Defenseman Cody Ceci (ankle) is out indefinitely for the Maple Leafs, and forward William Nylander (illness) did not play against Anaheim.

--Field Level Media

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