TORONTO — Sam Montembeault didn’t expect to play Saturday night and he certainly didn’t expect to be staring down sniper Auston Matthews on the first shot he faced in two weeks.
Montembeault was pressed into service after starter Jake Allen suffered what appeared to be a groin injury while unsuccessfully attempting to stop Matthews’ 57th goal of the season.
It took Matthews only 27 seconds to score No. 58 as he took advantage of a turnover and connected with the first shot on Montembeault.
“He’s a great shooter and he’s a 50-goal scorer for a reason,” Montembeault said. “When he comes in like this with speed, you have no idea where he’s going to shoot. For a goalie, it’s very tough to read. I haven’t played for a while and you don’t want to face (Matthews) on your first shot. But I was happy, because it didn’t affect my game too much and I was able to put it behind me. It went well afterwards.”
Montembeault gave up a second-period goal to John Tavares, but finished with 23 saves and gave the Canadiens a chance to come back.
The injury was a tough break for Allen, who missed more than two months with a groin injury earlier this year.
“Every time you see a teammate go down, it’s tough,” said Josh Anderson. “(Allen’s) been through so many hurdles this season, including an injury and a long process to regain his health. He was playing very well since his return to the game, so it’s a blow for him, that’s for sure.”
It’s also a punch to the gut for the Canadiens. Coach Martin St. Louis said Allen will be evaluated on the team’s return to Montreal. The fact Allen pulled himself from the game immediately and had to be assisted to the locker room are indications he’ll be out for a while.
That raised the question of whether Carey Price might accelerate the timeline for his season debut, but St. Louis wouldn’t rush Price before he felt ready.
The Canadiens did have Jeff Petry back for the first time since March 24 and he was solid as he played more than 21 minutes, picked up an assist, delivered four hits and blocked three shots.
Petry, who hadn’t played since March 24, said it took a while to feel comfortable.
“At the start of the game, I had trouble adjusting to the gaps,” Petry said. “I didn’t take part in a lot of practices and we didn’t do a lot of simulated zone entries, so it was difficult. But once I found my bearings, it was fine.”
The Canadiens had goals from Joel, Edmundson and Cole Caufield and had a 6-on-4 advantage to finish the game after St. Louis pulled the goalie while on the power play. The last-ditch effort came after Montreal weathered a 5-on-3 Leafs’ power play for 1:44.
“That was a big kill, gave us a chance to stay in the game,” St. Louis said. “I thought if there was another penalty called it would be against them and we got that and it gave us a chance to make a push, pull the goalie. We didn’t get the goal, but I loved that we had a chance.”
Matthews has 58 goals for the season to lead the NHL and he has 51 goals in his last 50 games. The last player to score at that pace was Mario Lemieux in 1996.
After the game, the Canadiens announced Jonathan Drouin is finished for the season after undergoing surgery to repair torn tendons in his wrist Friday. The team expects Drouin to make a complete recovery in time for training camp in September. He had six goals and 14 assists in 34 games.
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