MONTREAL — The play itself was harmless enough.
It was late in the second period when Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nick Foligno skated hard at the Montreal Canadiens net. He made a hard stop at the goal and then bent over with a grimace of pain.
Trying to skate it off, he quickly realized the severity of it all and motioned at the bench that he was skating to the opposite side. That’s where the visiting dressing room is located at Bell Centre.
When the third period began, Foligno didn’t join his teammates. A few minutes into the frame, the Leafs announced the forward was out for the game with an upper-body injury.
“I don’t have an update, we’ll just have to see how (it is),” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We have the day off tomorrow (Tuesday) so we’ll just have to how it settles down and (we’ll) know more our next practice day.”
The Maple Leafs fell to the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime on Monday. Although the game had little meaning in the standings, Toronto’s message over the last few days was to finish strong and continue to play to a style that got them to their position.
The game had meant more to the Canadiens who are still trying to clinch their spot in the postseason. Third place in the division is also in play. The win, combined with a Winnipeg Jets 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday saw both Montreal and Winnipeg sit tied for third in the North Division with 57 points after 51 games.
For the Leafs, all eyes on are on Foligno.
“It’s obviously not great,” Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said of the Foligno injury. “Obviously we want him to be alright and hopefully get him back here soon.”
The Leafs acquired Foligno from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Apr. 11. In a three-way deal that saw two other teams absorb 75 percent of his $5.5 million cap hit, Toronto surrendered a first-round pick to the Jackets and acquired forward Stefan Noesen from the San Jose Sharks.
The cost of a first-rounder, while high, was what it took to land the rental player. A proven forward that could help and provide leadership.
The reviews from Foligno’s teammates have been glowing.
“In the weeks he’s been here he’s been able to lead and provide influence on guys, different points of view, different perspective,” Rielly said. “I think he’s been outstanding and he’s just kind of meshed into our group.”
The transition, by Foligno’s account hasn’t been as smooth as his teammates view it.
“I must be a good actor because on some days I feel like I’ve screwed up a few things, warmups and everything else,” Foligno said before the game. “As my game starts getting more comfortable, more stuff will come out.”
Following the trade to Toronto, Foligno had to undergo a seven-day quarantine. It stared two days after the trade was consummated. When it was all said and done, he went two weeks between games. Foligno promptly joined the team’s first line to skate alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. He’s also played on the team’s penalty kill.
Before Monday’s game, Foligno recorded an assist in each contest of his four games with Toronto.
In his third game with the Leafs, Foligno appeared to tweak something in the second period of the team’s 4-1 victory against the Canadiens on Apr. 28.
While retrieving the puck along the boards, Foligno appears to buckle while retrieving a puck. He quickly left to the bench and was hunched over in pain while stretching something out.
He remained in the game and everything appeared to be ok.
With a game the following night, Foligno joined Rielly and Jake Muzzin as players who took the night off for maintenance in a 4-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks.
Foligno, along with the other players mentioned above, returned on Saturday in a 5-1 injury.
It’s unclear if the sequence last week in Montreal had anything to do with Foligno’s injury on Monday. There was also a shift in which Foligno slid into the boards and that may have contributed to the injury. But the play that led to him skating to the dressing room seemed harmless. An innocuous hard stop in front of Montreal’s crease.
More will be known when the team hits the ice for practice on Wednesday. In the meantime, the Leafs may have to adjust their lineup.
Foligno’s add came at no roster cost to the Leafs. So they’ll be able to adjust accordingly.
The Leafs took the first three penalties of the game and they were burned on the last one of the sequence. With Foligno in the box for tripping, Tyler Toffoli blasted his 28th goal of the season past Jack Campbell.
“In the first 21 minutes or so we took three penalties,” Keefe said. “Not a good night not to have Justin Holl.”
Holl missed the game after taking a puck to the face from a dump-in attempt by Vancouver’s Nils Hoglander on Saturday. He is expected to return for the next game. With Zach Hyman out (knee) and then losing Foligno in the game and then the 5-on-6 situation that led to the tying goal from Montreal, Keefe felt those missing players prevent his team from coming up with a better result.
The Leafs had three power-play opportunities and put Rasmus Sandin on the top unit for all three of them. They went 0-for-3.
Matthews continues to score
Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 39th goal of the season that put Toronto ahead of Montreal 2-1 at 17:21 of the second period.
Normally subdued in his goal celebrations, Matthews was ecstatic as he deflected a shot from Muzzin past Allen.
An incredible display from Matthews, who has been scoring at insane 0.8125 goals per game.
Campbell’s change of tone
Normally hard on himself following a loss, Jack Campbell was measured in his post-game comments.
Montreal’s Phillip Danault jammed a puck from the side of the net to beat Campbell with 52 seconds remaining in regulation that forced overtime.
That’s something I work on a lot so for it to go in that one time at that point, I’m not going to overthink it,” Campbell said. “Obviously it would have been nice to get out of there after 60 with the win but I thought the guys played hard and we could have won the game.
“We’re just going to bounce back and play really hard next game.”
This is far different tone than the one used in his previous three losses this season. The team has been working with Campbell to not get too critical of his game and the more upbeat tone after a loss on Monday appears to be a step in that direction.