The Wraparound: Tyler Toffoli has been Canadiens’ difference maker

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Marc Bergevin spent the past year retooling the Canadiens’ roster. Those changes and additions, mixed with a little bit of luck and circumstance, as well as the rebirth of starting goalie Carey Price, have brought Montreal to within three games of what would be a stunning trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

They enter Game 3 against the Golden Knights Friday night (8 p.m. ET; USA Network) tied 1-1 and looking to take the series lead as it shifts to Montreal.

One of the biggest additions that Bergevin made over the past year was the signing of Tyler Toffoli in free agency.

NHL free agency can sometimes be a bit of a fool’s paradise. Teams get into bidding wars for non-elite players that have already played their best hockey for somebody else. They end up playing top dollar for a player on the downside of their career that may not provide what is expected. It can be great for the player (which is good!), but the team usually ends up with regrets and quickly looks for a way out of it. Especially in a salary cap league where every dollar spent counts so much. Most long-term contracts signed in free agency end in a buyout or trade within a few years signing it.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Toffoli, though, has been one of the big free agency wins so far, and is only signed for three more years at a very team-friendly (just a little north of $4M per season) rate.

He has been the Canadiens’ best offensive player all season, and one of the biggest game-changers in their lineup.

He finished the regular season in the top-10 in goals (28 in 52 games) and already has five (to go with seven assists) in the Canadiens’ first 13 playoff games. That includes two game-winning goals, including a series-clinching goal in overtime against the Jets in the Second Round.

The thing about Toffoli’s offensive surge this season is that there was always the potential for it and a lot of signs that he could excel in the right environment. Go back to his days in Los Angeles and he was consistently one of the league’s best possession drivers and a shot-generating machine. What always seemed to hold him back, at least over the past few years was the fact he was playing in a system that was not geared for offense surrounded by a roster that was short on impact talent.

When he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks late in the 2019-20 season he immediately excelled with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 17 games (including playoffs).

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

Add in his time with the Canadiens, and he now has 41 goals in exactly 82 games (regular season and playoffs) since leaving the Kings, while also continuing to post strong possession numbers. He is an outstanding all-around player and become an elite goal scorer.

When you look back at the 2020-21 Canadiens they were a team that did a lot of things well, specifically when it came to controlling possession and the pace of the game, that should have built the foundation for a good team. The two things they lacked were consistent goaltending and players that could finish and turn all of that possession into offense. This postseason Price has given them everything they need when it comes to the former. Toffoli has been providing the latter all season and continuing it in the playoffs. It is a big reason they are in the middle of an improbable run.

FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (Series tied 1-1) – USA Network / Peacock (livestream)

SATURDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 4: Lightning at Islanders, 8 p.m. ET (TB leads 2-1) – USA Network / Peacock (livestream)

Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

“I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

“Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

“That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

“We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

“Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

“We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

ON A ROLL

Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

MARKING MILESTONES

Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

UP NEXT

Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.