Keefe: Maple Leafs have ‘zero excuses’ for series loss to Canadiens

Sheldon Keefe believes there's no reason why the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't have avoided blowing a 3-1 series lead and getting eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round series.

"We were in a good spot and didn't close it out," the Maple Leafs head coach said following a 3-1 loss in Game 7 on Monday night, according to The Athletic's James Mirtle. "We added enough pieces and depth to be able to deal with those (injury) situations, so there's zero excuses."

Keefe also expressed just how deeply the loss affected his team.

"Really hard to put it into words. We're obviously devastated (and) disappointed," he said, according to TSN's Kristen Shilton. "(We) expected better of ourselves, and we think we're capable of a lot more, not just (Monday night) but through the whole series."

In fact, Keefe revealed the team was so distraught he opted not to speak to them as a group afterward.

Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews - who earned the 2021 "Rocket" Richard Trophy with 41 goals during the regular season but scored just once in the series - also conveyed his disappointment.

"I'm not really sure how to sum it up. It's extremely frustrating all around," the dynamic center said.

Mitch Marner, whose giveaway allowed Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher to score the opening goal of Game 7, took some responsibility for his lackluster play.

"I just have to make sure that it stops happening," Marner said, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

The Maple Leafs were playing without two key players. John Tavares was stretchered off in Game 1. The Toronto captain sustained both a concussion and a knee injury on the play and was later ruled out for the series. Defenseman Jake Muzzin exited Game 6 after appearing to pull something and missed Game 7 after being ruled out for at least three weeks.

Toronto acquired forwards Nick Foligno and Riley Nash in separate deals at the trade deadline, as well as defenseman Ben Hutton. Foligno dealt with an injury of his own during the series, while Nash barely played and Hutton did not suit up in this postseason.

The Maple Leafs claimed the North Division title and entered the playoffs as the division's top seed. Montreal finished the regular season with the worst record among postseason clubs and earned the North's No. 4 seed as a result.

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Habs’ Gallagher praises Price: ‘He’s the best I’ve ever seen’

Carey Price reminded everyone Monday why he's still in the conversation for best goalie in the world.

The Montreal Canadiens goaltender stopped 30 of 31 shots during a spectacular performance in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was less than two minutes away from a shutout before William Nylander beat him with a meaningless tally after Montreal already scored an empty-netter en route to a 3-1 win.

Habs forward Brendan Gallagher, who scored the opening goal in Game 7, was highly complimentary toward his netminder.

"We gave him one goal, it was almost like we knew it was going to be enough," Gallagher said postgame, per Sportsnet.

"It's a different level of confidence when you know Price is back there - especially in these elimination games," Gallagher added. "He's the best I've ever seen."

Price is now 22-10 with a 2.00 goals-against average, .929 save percentage, and three shutouts when facing elimination across all competitions, including international play, in his career, per Sportsnet. He's also 7-2 with a 1.54 goals-against average, .944 save percentage, and two shutouts in winner-take-all games.

However, since 2017-18, he owns a pedestrian .909 save percentage and minus-7.7 goals saved above average in the regular season. Yet, time and time again, he's proven to step up big when it matters most. He recorded a .936 save percentage during last year's playoffs and a .931 mark in the first round against Toronto this year.

The media asked Price postgame if this is the best hockey he's ever played, but he calmly deflected the question, just as he did to most of Toronto's shots in the series.

"That was our best game of the series," the 2015 Vezina Trophy winner said.

Price will go toe-to-toe with the reigning Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck in what could be a goaltender's duel for the ages when the Canadiens take on the Winnipeg Jets in Round 2.

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Canadiens stun Maple Leafs in Game 7 to complete series comeback

Carey Price turned in a marquee performance when it mattered most, stopping 30 shots to help the underdog Montreal Canadiens upset the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in Game 7 on Monday.

Montreal came all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit. They never trailed after Game 4.

Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring for Montreal 3:02 into the second period, beating Jack Campbell five-hole following a Mitch Marner turnover. Corey Perry added some insurance later in the frame, redirecting a point shot on the power play with his knee.

Toronto didn't score until after Tyler Toffoli had already buried the empty-netter to seal the series.

The Habs will face the Winnipeg Jets in Round 2. The winner will take on the victor between the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, which means the winner of the East Final will battle the winner of the Central Final in Round 3.

The Maple Leafs still haven't won a playoff series since 2004. They've now lost in the opening round in five straight years dating back to 2017.

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Vegas’ Reaves banned 2 games for actions toward Avalanche’s Graves

Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves will sit out a pair of contests for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Monday.

Reaves was assessed a match penalty for attempting to injure Graves during a scrum in the third period of Colorado's 7-1 victory in Game 1 of their second-round series Sunday.

The NHL said both Reaves and the Golden Knights admitted his behavior was in retaliation for Graves' earlier hit on Mattias Janmark, which forced the Vegas forward to leave the game.

"While some of the actions taken by Reaves could be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials, the totality of Reaves' actions combined with the game situation and the retribution involved in the play necessitates supplemental discipline," the league said.

Reaves was previously suspended one game for hitting Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte in the head during Game 7 of their second-round series last year.

Game 2 between the Golden Knights and Avalanche is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.

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DeBoer defends Reaves: ‘One of the cleanest tough guys I’ve seen’

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer has come to the defense of Ryan Reaves.

"It's not hard to defend Ryan Reaves," DeBoer said Monday, according to David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "For me, Ryan Reaves is one of the cleanest tough guys I've seen in the league in my 12, 13 years."

The Golden Knights forward was assessed a match penalty for attempting to injure Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves during a scrum after a whistle in Game 1 of their teams' second-round series Sunday night.

Reaves will have a hearing Monday for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced.

But DeBoer believes extra discipline may not be necessary.

"As far as the incident, I don't know. That's in player safety. I do know a couple things: His gloves never came off, and nobody was hurt on the play," DeBoer said. "Whether they're going to look at what's between the lines there and think that there's something that maybe I don't see, that's their department, not mine."

Graves was bleeding and briefly lay prone on the ice after the play.

Reaves ranks eighth among all players with 937 penalty minutes since entering the NHL in 2010. The 34-year-old has been suspended twice before, earning bans in 2016 and during last year's postseason.

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Bettman upholds Kadri’s 8-game suspension

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri's eight-game suspension, the league announced Monday.

Kadri will now appeal the suspension to a neutral arbitrator who will have the final say, according to The Athletic's Peter Baugh.

The 30-year-old was handed the ban after delivering a hit to the head on St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk during Game 2 of Round 1. Kadri has already served three games of the suspension, which means he will be eligible to return no earlier than Game 7 of Colorado's series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

This marks the third time Kadri has been suspended in the postseason and the sixth time overall during his career.

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Maple Leafs’ Muzzin expected to miss at least 3 weeks

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin is expected to miss a minimum of three weeks due to a lower-body injury suffered during Game 6, head coach Sheldon Keefe announced Monday, according to Sportsnet's Eric Engels.

Muzzin left Saturday's contest in the second period after appearing to pull something.

Prior to the injury, the 32-year-old led the team's defensemen in ice time this postseason. He contributed two goals and one assist through six games while also adding 16 hits and 11 blocked shots.

Keefe confirmed Rasmus Sandin will replace Muzzin, and that's the club's only lineup change after Game 6, according to TSN's Mark Masters.

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Maple Leafs to host 550 health care workers for Game 7 vs. Canadiens

The Toronto Maple Leafs will host 550 fully vaccinated frontline health care workers at Scotiabank Arena for their Game 7 matchup against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

"Every single day our healthcare workers put their lives on the line to help others," Ontario Premier Doug Ford's statement reads. "This small token of appreciation doesn't measure up to the sacrifices they've made during COVID-19, but it is an opportunity for us to recognize their heroic efforts to keep each and every one of us safe."

MLSE, the company that owns the Maple Leafs, will cover the costs for the workers to attend and give each attendee a jersey.

On Sunday the province rejected a proposal to allow spectators into Scotiabank Arena for Game 7, according to TSN.

Fans were welcomed back to the Bell Centre in Montreal for Game 6 on Saturday, the first time a Canadian NHL team has permitted spectators at home since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The club won 3-2 in overtime with 2,500 fans in attendance.

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