After losing one of their top scorers to injury, the Montreal Canadiens will have to quickly regroup when they visit the surging Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
Montreal's 3-2 overtime victory Monday over the Edmonton Oilers would have been an entirely stirring comeback win, except for the dark cloud of Brendan Gallagher's fractured right thumb. The Montreal forward left the game in the first period after being struck by a shot from teammate Alexander Romanov.
Gallagher is expected to miss multiple weeks, leaving the Canadiens without a key offensive weapon as they push for a North Division playoff spot.
"It's tough. He's a warrior in front of the net, and this kind of thing might happen through the season," Gallagher linemate Tomas Tatar said. "Obviously, he will be missed. We have to do everything we can, battle and get as many points as we can until he gets back, and hopefully he'll be ready to play for us."
Between Gallagher's injury and a 2-0 deficit through two periods, Monday's game looked all but lost for the Habs before Josh Anderson and Tatar scored in the third period. Eric Staal, playing his first game since being traded from the Buffalo Sabres, marked his Montreal debut with the winning goal at 4:02 of overtime.
The Canadiens are 4-1-0 in their past five games.
Carey Price made 21 saves, though the Canadiens goaltender seemed to be favoring his leg during the second period. Coach Dominique Ducharme said Price was being checked by team doctors but didn't believe the injury was serious.
Since the Habs also play Thursday night in Montreal against the Winnipeg Jets, Price and Jake Allen already were likely to split starting duties in the back-to-back games. Depending on Price's condition, the Canadiens could opt to give Allen his first start of the year against Toronto.
The Maple Leafs return home from a perfect 4-0 trip and haven't suffered a regulation loss in their past eight games (7-0-1). The most recent victory was 5-3 over the Calgary Flames on Monday.
Auston Matthews scored two goals, giving the star forward 27 for the season and 10 points over his past seven games (six goals, four assists). Matthews' second goal was particularly noteworthy since it came on the power play, snapping the Maple Leafs' 0-for-29 drought with the extra attacker that had stretched beyond 11 full games.
Calgary's Mikael Backlund scored a game-tying, short-handed goal during that same Toronto power play, leading Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe to call a timeout. The strategy worked, as Matthews scored less than a minute later with what ended up being the winning goal.
The timeout was "just a nice reset for us," Matthews said. "Just relax, plenty of time left on the power play. I mean, (the game-winner) wasn't a pretty one by all means, but that was obviously a nice one to get our power play back on track and obviously a big goal in the game."
Jack Campbell improved his record to 9-0-0, matching the club record for consecutive wins for a goalie, most recently achieved 27 years ago by Felix Potvin (1993-94). Unless Keefe chooses to manage the breakout goalie's minutes by giving backup Michael Hutchinson a start, Campbell is expected to be between the pipes again on Wednesday.
The Leafs are 3-1-0 against Montreal this season.
--Field Level Media