Maple Leafs blank Canadiens for 12th straight home win

TORONTO (AP) — The Maple Leafs were without their starting goalie, their best overall player and two other regulars — and still managed to do what they’ve been doing a lot lately.

They won again at Air Canada Center.

Curtis McElhinney made 33 saves for his third shutout of the season and the Maple Leafs extended their club-record home winning streak to 12 straight games with a 4-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Andreas Johnsson scored his first NHL goal, and William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Nazem Kadri also had goals for Toronto, which has four victories in a row following a four-game slide (0-2-2).

McElhinney, who picked up the eighth shutout of his career, got his second straight start and third consecutive win with Leafs No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen still out after taking a blow to the head/neck area in a crease pileup on Wednesday against Dallas.

“Just guys stepping up and coming in the lineup and really contributing,” Kadri said when asked how his team keeps humming along. “That’s been a strength for us all year. We’ve got key guys out. We’ll look for other guys to step up.”

Charlie Lindgren made 45 saves for Montreal, which dropped to 1-5-2 over its last eight games.

Toronto won despite being a bit short-handed. Star center Auston Matthews missed his ninth consecutive game with a shoulder injury, veteran forward Leo Komarov (lower body) didn’t suit up following a strange collision with Nylander in Buffalo on Thursday, and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev sat out a fourth straight game with an illness.

“That’s what you need,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “You need all your hands on deck.”

The injury-ravaged Canadiens were without starting goalie Carey Price (concussion) for a 13th consecutive game, while captain Max Pacioretty (knee) missed his eighth in a row.

Lindgren was the story of the first period with three big stops, including an incredible full-stretch glove save to deny Tyler Bozak of what appeared to be a sure goal on a power play, until Nylander finally broke through moments later.

With the Leafs still on the man advantage, the Swede took a pass from Jake Gardiner at the top of the right faceoff circle and scored his 15th to snap a 13-game goal drought against the league’s worst penalty-killing unit on the road.

Toronto made it 2-0 just three minutes into the second when Travis Dermott played a long stretch pass off the boards to Kapanen, who blew past Noah Juulsen down the left before beating Lindgren past the blocker for his sixth.

McElhinney picked up an assist on the play after quickly playing the puck to Dermott.

“You throw it up the wall and a lot of times (Kapanen) can just skate onto pucks and make things happen,” McElhinney said. “I’ll take a point any time I can.”

The Leafs goalie had a relatively quiet night compared to Lindgren, but had to be sharp with six minutes remaining in the period when Alex Galchenyuk jumped on a turnover by Leafs defenseman Roman Polak in front.

Acquired from Montreal ahead of last month’s trade deadline, Toronto center Tomas Plekanec played his first game against his former team. Drafted by the Canadiens in 2001, the 35-year-old ranks seventh on Montreal’s all-time games played list at 981. He was in the middle of the action later in the second when Montreal correctly challenged for goaltender interference with under five minutes left, denying Kapanen his second of the night off a scramble.

But the Leafs eventually stretched their lead to three with 28.3 seconds remaining in the period when Kadri redirected Mitch Marner’s pass into the top corner on a power play for his 28th.

Johnsson scored his first goal — also notching his first point — with 4:33 left in the third when he chipped Zach Hyman’s pass past Lindgren at the side of the net. He celebrated with an excited leap.

“It’s just emotion going through my whole body,” Johnsson said with a laugh. “Jumping … 4-0 (with) five minutes left. I don’t really know what goes through my mind — just happy feelings.”

NOTES: Leafs forward Patrick Marleau played the 1,565th regular-season game of his career to move past Nicklas Lidstrom for 11th place on the NHL’s all-time list. … Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber had foot surgery this week, but is expected to be ready for training camp. … Matthews missed his 19th game of the season because of injury.


Canadiens: host Florida on Monday night.

Maple Leafs: at Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.

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