North Division off to a flying start with thriller from Leafs, Habs

Justin Cuthbert
·2 min read

This is what we’ve been waiting for.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens showed the potential of the North Division right from the beginning, combining blows in an opening-night thriller clinched, fittingly, at the end of a frenetic overtime on a goal from Morgan Rielly.

Rielly’s winner completed the 5-4 comeback for Toronto in a game that had everything, including incredibly satisfying standout individual performances from both teams.

William Nylander was exceptional for the Leafs, scoring twice on a night that seemed to serve as a showcase for his puck-handling ability. John Tavares was a standout as well on that second line for Toronto, totalling three points and looking encouragingly sharp from skating perspective.

As for Montreal, the combination of Nick Suzuki, Josh Anderson and Jonathan Drouin was a terror for Leafs defenders. Anderson scored twice in his debut with Montreal after coming over in a trade for Max Domi, while it seems Suzuki has taken another step forward after his breakout performance in the bubble last summer.

Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) celebrates after scoring on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs emerged with an overtime victory over the Montreal Canadiens in a thrilling start to the NHL season. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Between those three, it appears Montreal has a legitimate top line in a division marked by elite forward talent. That’s an exciting thing.

As for the newcomers to the rivalry, Wayne Simmonds has been credited by his teammates for spurring the comeback (though Toronto’s power play probably had more to do with it) after cracking Ben Chiarot twice in a second-period fight.

But the most impressive debut belonged to Montreal’s Alexander Romanov, who earned nearly 23 minutes and provided the sweetest dish of the entire game.

We have eight more of these meetings, and all-Canadian clashes all season long.

Isn’t it a beautiful thing?

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