MONTREAL — There were a lot of individual milestones on the line for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Auston Matthews was looking to extend his goal-scoring streak to nine games. Mitch Marner could have extended his assists and points streaks to nine games.
Instead, Travis Dermott, Justin Holl and Ilya Mikheyev each scored their first goal of the season to help the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 at Bell Centre on Wednesday Night.
It's great and you just build confidence throughout the lineup," Matthews said. "It's just a huge win for us tonight."
The Canadiens have been one of the most dangerous team at 5-on-5 this season. Josh Anderson, acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the offseason, made his presence felt on his opening shift.
He hit Jake Muzzin to force a turnover and then freed himself for a pass from Jonathan Drouin. Anderson, with a player on his left side in Toronto's zone, kept the puck and beat Frederik Andersen between the legs for a 1-0 lead at 1:16.
Andersen was under siege shortly after as Montreal dominated the opening half of the first period leading 7-1 in shots on goal. Toronto had a better final 10 minutes of the frame but trailed 1-0 after the first period.
"He's making critical saves when we really need them, and allowing us to find our game," Holl said of Andersen. "He's allowing us to catch fire at the right time so I really can't say enough good things about what he's done for our squad."
The game turned in the Leafs' favour on a 4-on-4 situation in the second period. Toronto was aggressive on the forecheck in Montreal's zone and forced several turnovers. Travis Dermott, making his return to the lineup after a leg injury, took advantage and fired a shot over Carey Price's shoulder to tie it 1-1 at 15:18.
Another 4-on-4 situation helped the Leafs take the lead early in the third period. Toronto once again controlled play in Montreal's zone and Justin Holl was left alone at the point with a clear path to the net. Holl called his own number and fired a shot past Price that gave Toronto a 2-1 lead at 1:50.
"It's not often you're going to beat Carey Price with two clean shots at the net," Keefe said.
With a smile on his face, Keefe was asked if he knew both defensemen could shoot like that.
He continued to grin.
"Oh yeah of course. No doubt. They only pull it out when it counts the most."
John Tavares picked up an assist on both goals and his first assist came just minutes after returning to the game after undergoing concussion protocol.
Tavares took a stick to the face from Shea Weber. The Montreal defenseman then fell on top of him and the Maple Leafs forward was slow to get up from the incident.
"The way he fell on me, my nose hit the ice and I was gushing blood pretty good, "Tavares said. "I had to go through protocol but everything was good and I'm feeling good."
Mikheyev scored Toronto's third goal of the night when he rushed in and took a pass from Alex Kerfoot just 42 seconds after Holl's goal.
"It was great to see Mickey (Mikheyev) get one," Matthews said. "He must have had the most chances in the league without one."
Although the goal happened with different linemates, the Leafs had placed Mikheyev back on a line with Tavares and William Nylander after Wayne Simmonds suffered a broken wrist on Saturday. Perhaps Mikheyev's goal will spark more production from that line.
Montreal cut the lead back to within a goal when Tomas Tatar beat Morgan Rielly to the net for a rebound in front of Andersen at 16:40.
Zach Hyman added insurance for Toronto with an empty-netter at 18:56.
Looking at the game as a whole, Montreal had the edge in shot attempts and their expected goals-for percentage in the game was 57 percent per NaturalStatTrick.
But Toronto's method of waiting for higher quality scoring chances helped Toronto win.
"Defensively we just didn't give them much at all," Keefe said. "In fact, I had this as the lowest number of scoring chances we gave up in a game all season."
The data supports Keefe.
Toronto had eight scoring chances off the rush compared to just five by Montreal. Toronto also had 15 slot shots on net compared to 10 from Montreal, per Sportlogiq.
Seven of the 15 slot shots on net for Toronto came in the third period.
The commitment by the Maple Leafs to become a better defensive team is paying off for Toronto. They extended their point-streak to 8-0-1 and are 11-2-1 this season.
The Canadiens pose the biggest threat to the Leafs in the North Division standings and the next few games between the teams should be entertaining.
Andersen made 33 saves and has allowed just four goals over his last three games.
Both teams meet again on Saturday in Toronto.