Chicago Blackhawks down Maple Leafs 4-1 in Conner Bedard’s Toronto debut
TORONTO — Corey Perry scored the winner to lead Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks over the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Monday.
MacKenzie Entwistle, Tyler Johnson and Taylor Raddysh, into an empty net, had the other goals for Chicago (2-2-0). Arvid Soderblom made 36 stops. Andreas Athanasiou had two assists.
The No. 1 pick at the 2023 draft — and the NHL’s most-hyped youngster since Connor McDavid — Bedard continued a season-opening road tour of hockey-mad markets after starting his professional career against childhood idol Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins before facing the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.
The 18-year-old entered with a point in each of his first three NHL appearances, but was held off the scoresheet Monday.
William Nylander and John Tavares replied for Toronto (2-1-0). Joseph Woll made 26 saves in his first start of the season.
Just the second player in the last 106 years to open a season with consecutive hat tricks, Leafs centre Auston Matthews was held in check after Toronto combined to score 12 goals over its first six periods of 2023-24.
Perry, who jawed and tussled with Leafs tough guy Ryan Reaves earlier in the game, snapped a 1-1 tie at 14:46 of the second period when he took a breakaway pass and fired the puck past Woll.
Johnson, who had two goals in Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Montreal, then made it 3-1 on a power play at 17:05 when he got behind Toronto’s defence off the rush.
Matthews rattled Soderblom’s crossbar on a deflection that stayed out four minutes into the third — the closest he would come to a seventh goal on the young season — and Woll made a good stop on Bedard midway through the period.
Toronto got a power play with eight minutes to go in regulation, but couldn’t generate much against the rebuilding Blackhawks’ penalty kill before Soderblom robbed Tavares twice on the doorstep with Woll on the bench for an extra attacker.
Raddysh then iced it late into the empty net.
Booed when he touched the puck at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Bedard faced off against Matthews for the opening draw at Scotiabank Arena, and had an electrifying rush late in the first where he stepped past a defender and forced a nice save out of Woll.
The Leafs goaltender, who got the start after Ilya Samsonov allowed nine goals in consecutive victories to open the schedule, made good stops on odd-man rushes earlier in the period off Nick Foligno and Ryan Donato to keep the score 0-0 through 20 minutes.
Chicago opened the scoring three minutes into the second when Entwistle beat Woll after he made a good stop on Athanasiou.
Toronto got that back 1:45 later when the red-hot Nylander, with his sixth point of the season, collected a pass and moved into the offensive zone and dropped the puck to Tavares, who fired upstairs on Soderblom before Chicago pushed ahead.
Blackhawks winger Taylor Hall (shoulder) was back in the lineup following a one-game injury absence after being originally listed as out week-to-week.
BEDARD’S DEBUT TOUR
The phenom’s entrance into the NHL has been quite the gauntlet.
The long road trip, which wraps up later this week in Denver, has included lots of attention — and plenty of media obligations.
“Handling it really well,” said Hall, another former top pick. “He does way too many in-game interviews … they need to find a way to just let him play.”
MATTHEWS’ SHOT BLUEPRINT
Bedard’s lethal pull-and-drag release that tweaks the angle and has fooled many a goaltender is something he took from Matthews’ arsenal.
“Someone I feel he pioneered this certain shot,” Bedard said. “Ever since he came into the league, he’s someone I’ve loved to watch. I looked up to just how he plays the game.”
Leafs: Open season-long five-game road trip Thursday in Florida.
Blackhawks: Conclude a five-game road trip Thursday in Colorado before Bedard’s home debut Saturday against Vegas.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press