Toronto blanks Montreal 4-0 for a 3-1 lead in playoff series

MONTREAL — Jack Campbell made 32 saves in his first playoff shutout, Alex Galchenyuk set up two goals and scored into the empty net against his former team, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 on Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in their first-round series.

Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist and William Nylander and Joe Thornton also scored for Toronto, which can wrap up the best-of-seven series at home Thursday in Game 5. Alexander Kerfoot had three assists.

Carey Price stopped 24 shots for Montreal. The Canadiens have scored just four times in 12 periods against Campbell in the first playoff series between the teams since 1979.

The Leafs, who won consecutive post-season games in Montreal for the first time since the 1967 Stanley Cup final on the heels of Monday’s 2-1 victory, haven’t advanced to the second round since 2004.

Toronto is 11-1 all-time when leading a series 3-1 — a situation the Maple Leafs haven’t found themselves in since 1987.

If the Canadiens can force a Game 6 in Montreal on Saturday, the Quebec government will allow 2,500 fans into the Bell Centre, which would be the first NHL crowd in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Toronto opened the scoring 1:27 into the second period when Nylander scored his fourth goal in as many games in the series after taking a slick behind-the-back feed in tight from Galchenyuk on an odd-man rush.

Campbell stopped Eric Staal at the other end on the next shift before Joel Armia fanned on a great chance later in the period. The Maple Leafs broke the other way with Galchenyuk sending a pass to Spezza, who scored his second of the series on a 2-on-1 at 12:28.

The North Division’s No. 1 seed, Toronto kept the pressure on, and Thornton made it 3-0 just 2:28 later on a power play when he redirected a feed from Spezza at the side of Price’s net. At 41 years and 327 days, the veteran forward became the oldest Toronto player to record a playoff point, passing both Ron Francis and the late Allan Stanley (both 41 years, 62 days).

Thornton also became the oldest Maple Leafs player to score in the postseason, passing Patrick Marleau (38 years, 222 days).

The goal was Toronto’s third with the man advantage in the series after finishing the regular season a dismal 5 for 73 on the power play.

Montreal’s power play — 0 for 11 in the series after two failed man advantages in the first — got another opportunity late in the period, but Brendan Gallagher’s shot that beat Campbell clanked off the post.

A healthy scratch in Game 1, Galchenyuk scored into an empty net for the first three-point playoff game of his career.

NOTES: The Leafs were minus captain John Tavares (concussion, knee) and forward Nick Foligno (lower-body injury), while defenceman Travis Dermott got the nod ahead of Rasmus Sandin, and center Adam Brooks took Riley Nash’s spot. … Staal returned to the Canadiens’ lineup after missing Game 3, but Artturi Lehknonen, who left Monday’s contest in the first period, and Jake Evans, out for a third straight game, were scratched.

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