The Canadiens have fought their way back into the series by pouncing on the Maple Leafs’ mistakes

Jason Spezza #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots near Jeff Petry #26 of the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game Six of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on May 29, 2021 in Montreal.
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
The Maple Leafs are on the verge of rewriting their torturous past or en route to a collapse so colossal that it may never be lived down. At this point, a victory over the Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena on Monday in the deciding game of their postseason series would be met with more relief than jubilation.
Thank God. They didnt blow it again.
Toronto last won a round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2004. In the past three years, it has flubbed six chances to move on. This time it was up 3-1 on an undermanned Montreal team and yet here come the heebie-jeebies again.
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You could almost hear the creepy music from a horror movie as an unhurried Mitch Marner panicked and lobbed a puck over the glass on Saturday at a most inopportune moment. Are those footsteps. I hear?
It is actually quite easy to understand how this all happened.
Through six games, Auston Matthews and Marner have combined to score one goal on 49 shots. Zach Hyman is 0 for 19; Ilya Mikheyev is 0 for 11. Much is made when Joe Thornton does something noteworthy. After a so-so regular season, the likeable 41-year-old has one goal when it counts most.
With the exception of William Nylander, Jason Spezza and Alex Kerfoot, the Maple Leafs forwards have played like they are stuck in quicksand. And the teams depth on defence has been exposed. Rasmus Sandin, a prized 21-year-old who is in the last pairing, made two slapstick errors that led to the Game 5 loss. Then Travis Dermott, brought in to replace him, fumbled the puck to precede the winning goal in Game 6.
One person not to blame is Jack Campbell. He has been exemplary in goal but has somehow lost three games the past two in overtime. Although it does not seem that way, his save percentage (.937) is better than that of Carey Price (.926). The Canadiens goalie simply has made bigger saves at more crucial times.
On Saturday, Toronto outshot Montreal 13-2 in overtime and still didnt win.
Without Carey, we wouldnt be here now, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the 20-year-old centre who scored the winning goal, said afterward. He saved my butt more than once today, so I am really thankful. I think everyone can see he is carrying our team.
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Unless it is Nylander, who has four goals, nobody in a blue and white sweater has taken charge. John Tavares, the teams injured captain, has been relegated to a cheerleaders role. Now Jake Muzzin, a rugged defenceman and another veteran clubhouse leader, is also hurt and may not play on Monday.
The Canadiens have fought their way back into the series by pouncing on the Maple Leafs mistakes. There have been many, but Marners Buster Keaton moment was the worst. It gave the Canadiens a 5-on-3 advantage, with which they promptly scored.
Montreal enters Game 7 without much pressure at all. Its death sentence has already been commuted twice. It has blown third-period leads in back-to-back games, and then escaped in extra time.
There is no quit in this group, Shea Weber, the Canadiens captain, said late Saturday. Weve given ourselves a chance to play for the series and thats all we could ask. We have a belief [in ourselves] here, and now we are just going to go out and do it.
If the Canadiens lose, their fans will laud a valiant effort. If they win and advance to a second-round series against Winnipeg on Wednesday, it will be the biggest upset of this postseason. They were the fourth-best team in the North Division, the weakest in the league. The Maple Leafs captured their first division title since 1990, and looked superior as they won three of the series first four games. Now none of that really matters. If they lose, their season will be considered a bust. It is difficult to botch a 3-1 lead.
On Sunday, Torontos players said a lot of the same things they have all year. They talked about playing within a system and structure and improving their zone entries and other such hockey babble. At one point, Morgan Rielly commended Matthews and Marner, and called their production one goal between them in six games great.
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While praising them for everything from showing up at the right rink and tying their own skates, Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs coach, allowed that, They need to be difference makers on Monday night.
He sees Game 7 as a great opportunity to wipe away years of disappointments.
As much as it sucks how we got here and what we have been through the last couple of games and hate it, I really feel that we are right where we are supposed to be, Keefe said. We face a Game 7 situation, a difficult task, at a time when the other team has momentum, a time where you start to doubt and question yourself.
You have got an opportunity to embrace that and meet it head on and push through it. We want to continue this. There is no shortage of motivation.