Suffering Canadiens withdrawal? The Gazette has the answer with the ultimate fantasy experience as beat writer Pat Hickey and Gazette techie Eric Tobon employ EA Sports NHL 13 to produce The Season That Isn’t. Here’s how things might have looked in Saturday night’s game between the Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.
When he was a rookie with the Canadiens, Mikhail Grabovski would tell anyone who would listen that he was better than fellow Belarusians Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn.
He has been making that case since the Canadiens traded him to Toronto in 2008 and he came back to haunt his former teammates Saturday night as the Leafs beat the Canadiens 4-2 at the Bell Centre.
“We did a good job of shutting down (Phil) Kessel but Grabovski hurt us,” said defenceman Josh Gorges. “”He made a nice pass to start the play on the tying goal and then scored the winner.”
Grabovski snapped a 2-2 when he took a pass from Matthew Lombardi and fooled Carey Price with a backhander from close range at 8:55 of the second period.
“He came in hard and I thought he was going for the top corner but he made a quick move to the backhand and I didn’t get down quick enough,” said Price.
The game started out as if it was going to be a long night for Price and Toronto goaltender James Reimer. Each team scored in the opening minute and it was 2-2 by the 6:28 point.
Michel Therrien started Erik Cole, Tomas Plekanec and Colby Armstrong to match the Kessel line and they produced a dividend when Cole scored the first of his two goals at the 16-second mark.
The lead was short-lived as Clark MacArthur scored 20 seconds later.
Cole restored the Canadiens’ lead when he deflected a shot by Armstrong at 1L58 but the Leafs pulled even when Jake Gardiner scored on a 2-on-1 break with John-Michael Liles. Grabovski got things rolling when he stole the puck in the neutral and made a blind pass off the boards to Liles.
Lombardi added an insurance goal at 11:37 of the second period and Reimer did the rest as he made 32 saves for the win.
“We outshot them but I think they had more scoring chances,” said Gorges, who was one of a handful of players in the Canadiens’ room after the loss. “We were getting pucks to the net but we weren’t getting to rebounds and we didn’t have people in front. Our last game was Tuesday and while we needed the rest, we lost some of that edge we’ve had.”
The loss dropped the Canadiens out of first place in the Northeast Division for the first time this season. They fell one point behind the Ottawa Senators, who went 3-0 on the week.