TORONTO (AP) — Paul Byron broke a tie with a short-handed goal from his knees with 7:16 left and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Thursday night in Game 1 of the first-round series between Original Six rivals.
The game was marred by an early collision that sent Toronto captain John Tavares off the ice on a stretcher to a hospital.
Tavares crashed into Montreal’s Ben Chiarot 10:29 into the first period and was hit in the head by Corey Perry’s knee as he fell.
“He’s conscious and communicating well,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The tests he’s had so far have come back clear. He’s going to remain in hospital overnight to undergo further tests. It’s a big loss for us, but we’ve got lots of depth. Good teams overcome these types of things. That’s going to be on us.”
Tavares gave a thumbs-up as he left the ice.
“I’ve experienced a lot of different things, a lot of tough injuries like that in my time,” Keefe said. “In an empty building like that, it’s probably the most uncomfortable situation I’ve been a part of on the ice. It was really tough to get through. Our players were rattled and concerned. I was obviously very concerned.”
Toronto newcomer Nick Foligno then fought Perry immediately after the faceoff to resume play.
“Our captain’s laying on the ice,” Foligno said. “It’s nothing more than that. Perry obliged. It just addresses the situation and everyone moves on.”
Perry has played with Tavares internationally for Canada.
“Felt sick to my stomach,” Perry said. “Scary situation.”
Montreal stunned Toronto with the short-handed winner. With Tomas Tatar off for high-sticking and the Maple Leafs looking to take the lead, Byron raced past Rasmus Sandin, with the rookie defenseman dragging down the Montreal forward. From his knees, Byron then chipped the puck past goalie Jack Campbell.
Carey Price made 35 saves and Josh Anderson had a first-period goal for the Canadiens. They finished the regular season fourth in the all-Canadian North Division, 18 points behind the first-place Maple Leafs.
“New ball game now,” Price said. “We had struggles through the season, but got to the playoffs. It’s a new season.”
William Nylander tied it for Toronto early in the second, and Campbell made 28 saves in his playoff debut.
Game 2 is Saturday night in Toronto. The teams last met in the playoffs in 1979.