SNAPSHOTS: Sandin and family thrilled to see blueliner notch first playoff goal

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Rasmus Sandin’s family was already up late back in Uppsala, Sweden, so a few minutes more for a goal challenge by the Canadiens wasn’t going to matter.

The Sandin clan – not to mention other members of the Maple Leafs power play – didn’t have to disrupt the party. After the special teams’ group lumbered into the playoffs at less than 10% with the man advantage, and was 0-for-4 in a tight Game 1 loss, Sandin slammed his first playoff goal past Carey Price to provide insurance in a 5-1 victory.

It took a little time to confirm after a flimsy-looking objection by the Canadiens dragged on at the penalty bench.

“I was nervous,” said the 21-year-old first-round pick. “I haven’t scored in something like a year and a half.”

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That was due to injury, COVID-19, a stint on the farm and time needed to break back into the NHL lineup. Zach Bogosian’s absence opened that door and Sandin took Travis Dermott’s spot – and the coveted power-play assignment. He was on for a couple of goals in Game 1, but coach Sheldon Keefe came right back with him and Sandin got to celebrate.

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“I checked my phone right after the game and couldn’t read through all the texts from back home,” he said Sandin. “I’m super happy for the win.”

When William Nylander added another in the third period, it marked two man-advantage goals for Toronto the same night for the first time since March 3.

PAYING THE PRICE

The Canadiens have caused the Leafs fits all year, through 10 regular season matches and then Game 1, by throwing as many hits as possible or through methodical forechecking. On Saturday, the aggressiveness backfired into six straight short-handed situations after the opening call against the Leafs.

“Montreal’s made it very clear, they want to be very physical,” said Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe. “I think the term was they want to make it a war. If you want to do that, you’re at risk of having penalties called against you.”

In addition to the mix of high sticks and cross checks, the Habs thought they had a case for interference on Price with Sandin’s goal, but despite agreement with the coaching staff and their video people to challenge, it was dismissed.

CRISIS CONTROL

It’s not exactly in the general manager’s handbook, but Kyle Dubas has had to learn on the fly to handle a serious in-game injury to a Maple Leaf.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had in the last 15 to 18 months – between Ilya Mikheyev, Jake Muzzin and then John Tavares – emergency situations on the ice,” Dubas said his Saturday morning update on Tavares.

“Mikheyev severed his artery tendons (his wrist sliced by a skate) in New Jersey), Jake with his spinal issue (in last August’s playoffs against Columbus) and John’s. In all three, we’ve either been on the road or at home with no fans and the player’s family not there.”

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TV cameras caught a visibly distraught Dubas on Thursday night in the management suite at Scotiabank, watching with everyone else, the captain prone on the ice, then in great discomfort. Dubas raced down to the dressing room so that Tavares’s wife, Aryne, would be immediately in the loop of developments.

“You care about the player deeply, and what his status is, but it’s also to be able to provide updates to the player’s family. In all three cases – they have partners and in Jake and John’s case they’ve young children and they’re watching that at home – it’s very helpless.

“They need someone to be a conduit between them and the medical staff, with our players and coaches (involved) in the game. You want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to provide an update and also to support the player and the medical staff as things are happening frantically.”

CHUK CHECKS IN 

Alex Galchenyuk became a rare bird on Saturday night, a first-round draft pick of Montreal to appear in a playoff game for the rival Leafs.

Some NHL reclamation projects don’t get past the early trial stage, but despite Galchenyuk’s nomadic ways – five teams since his departed Montreal in the summer of 2018 – he found a home this year under the blue and white tent.

He entered Game 2 as part of a shuffled lineup in the wake of the Tavares injury.

“All credit to Alex,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe before faceoff. “He’s come in and worked extremely hard, right from the very first shift he played for us. It’s how he’s moved his feet so a lot of good things happen. He’s got a good skill set as well and he’s worked hard at that, making some adjustments to get comfortable again.”

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Galchenyuk took his lumps, demoted with the Marlies and putting in long sessions with development coaches.

“He didn’t come out of the (Game 1) lineup for anything he’s done or not done,” Keefe said. “With John’s absence, it changes the dynamic of our team. We knew Galchenyuk and Pierre Engvall would be factors for us and here they are, with a great opportunity.”

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LOOSE LEAFS

The Leafs have never fallen behind 2-0 at home in a best of seven since 1942, the year they were down three and came back to beat Detroit for the Cup … Auston Matthews’ game winner was the first in playoffs against Montreal since Jim Pappin’s, the night the Leafs won their last championship in ‘67. And in one night, Matthews’s three-point performance to hit 22 jumped nine Leafs in franchise history; Darcy Tucker, Tom Fergus, Dmitri Mironov, Mark Osborne, Gary Leeman, Joe Klukay, Mike Gartner, Russ Courtnall and Pat Boutette. Matthews is now tied with Bob Davidson at 39th … 37-year-old Jason Spezza’s goal was his first playoff point as a Leaf after being blanked in five last year against Columbus. What the public really wants, Joe Thornton – at 41 years, 324 days – to be the oldest player in franchise history to get a post-season point. Currently, that’s Allan Stanley (41 years, 62 days) according to NHL Stats … Keefe’s pre-game vow was to get Mitch Marner’s ice time south of 27 minutes in Game 1. The clock got away from the coach when Marner was out killing so many penalties and then over-loaded with Matthews in an attempt to tie the game in the third. It was down to 22:50 Saturday … Galchenyuk isn’t the highest-drafted former Hab to face the Leafs, that’s 1963’s No. 1 Garry Monahan.

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