MONTREAL — Led by Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, the Montreal Canadiens' off-season acquisitions are paying big dividends 10 games into the 2020-21 season.
Toffoli and Anderson each scored twice on Tuesday as the Montreal Canadiens celebrated captain Shea Weber's 1,000th game with a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
Toffoli and Anderson, as well as other newcomers including veteran forward Corey Perry, backup goaltender Jake Allen and defenceman Joel Edmundson, have fit like a glove so far with a Canadiens team looking to build on an unexpected post-season run last year.
"We're having success because that was the goal from the get-go when we made those kinds of deals," Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said. "So far it's working out well.
"We're 10 games in so that's certainly encouraging, but as I often mention it's a long year and we've just got to keep plugging away."
Toffoli, whose second goal was a highlight reel-worthy backhander, continued to haunt his old team as the Canadiens swept a two-game series with Vancouver and improved to 7-1-2 to move a point ahead of idle Toronto into first place in the North Division. Eight of Toffoli's nine goals this season have come against the Canucks.
"We always thought that Tyler Toffoli was really good at scoring goals and was a smart player we could use in all sorts of situations, well that's what he's doing," Julien said.
"He's killing penalties, on the power play, 5-on-5, and that goal he scored tonight on the backhand was a beauty."
Toffoli added an assist on Jeff Petry's empty-net goal to cap the scoring.
Montreal forward Nick Suzuki had two assists. Weber had an assist on Toffoli's second goal, giving the 35-year-old bruising defenceman seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games this season.
Antoine Roussel, Elias Pettersson and Tanner Pearson scored for the Canucks (6-7-0).
Allen made 36 saves for Montreal, while Thatcher Demko stopped 28 shots for Vancouver.
Montreal, which kicked off the two-game series between the teams with a 6-2 win on Monday, improved to 4-0-1 against the Canucks, outscoring them 28-15 over those five games.
Anderson, acquired from Columbus in an off-season trade that sent forward Max Domi to the Blue Jackets, is proving to be every bit the power forward the Canadiens have been craving for years. He scored the first two goals of the game and now has six on the season. He had just one goal in 26 games last year with Columbus.
The big winger opened the scoring at 14:53 of the first period. Ben Chiarot sent the puck toward the Vancouver goal and it wound up in front of Anderson, who outmuscled Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield and put the puck past Demko.
Montreal went up 2-0 with three minutes left in the opening period after Suzuki picked off a bad outlet pass in the Canucks zone. Suzuki's shot was blocked by Tyler Myers but the puck went right to Brett Kulak, whose shot was tipped in by Anderson.
The Canadiens rode their momentum into the second period and had a couple of chances to score on an early power play, but Demko made a couple of big saves on Perry.
That seemed to give the Canucks some life, and Roussel scored his first of the season when picked up a rebound and beat Allen at 4:20 of the second.
Toffoli restored Montreal's two-goal lead when he tipped in a Joel Edmundson shot at 12:29 of the second, then put the Canadiens up 4-1 around three minutes later when he outmanoeuvred former Hab Jordie Benn and fired a backhand past Demko.
Toffoli played 10 regular-season games and seven post-season games with the Canucks last season after Vancouver acquired him in a trade with Los Angeles. He signed a four-year, US$17 million contract with the Canadiens in October.
Pettersson scored his fourth of the year on a power play 53 seconds into the third period with a slick wrist shot over Allen form the right face-off circle.
The Canucks sent Demko to the bench for an extra attacker and were rewarded for late pressure when Pearson scored with 42 second left. But Petry put the game away with an empty-netter.
Toffoli passed up a chance at a hat trick to set up Petry, who was in a better position to score.
"I think if we had have had a two-goal lead I would have tried to be a bit selfish," Toffoli said. "But honestly we had a good game and Jake played well in net, so didn't want to mess that up for him."
Vancouver was 1-for-3 on the power play, while Montreal was 0-for-4.
"I thought we played well tonight," Canucks coach Travis Green said. "Played like a team that knew what it needed to do to win. It was a grinding game early, slowly got a few more chances, just came up short."
Weber's 1,000th game was acknowledged at a stoppage in play halfway through the first period. Players from both teams tapped their sticks on the ice and Weber waved as crowd noise was piped into the empty Bell Centre.
Weber was toasted by members of the Canadiens and his former team, the Nashville Predators, in video messages during breaks in the action, and posters created by his daughters were on display.
"Maybe it's a little unfortunate that his family and friends couldn't go to the game with the situation going on, but I thought they did a tremendous job," Anderson said Weber's tribute.
"Not every day you get to play your 1,000th game and it was such a special night just to be a part of it, and seeing Webs being such a great leader and going through that."
NOTES: The Canadiens will show a video tribute during Montreal's game Thursday against Ottawa as part of ceremony with Weber's family present. Additionally, a painting of Weber will be unveiled and he will be presented with a silver stick by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. ... Weber has 220 goals and 357 assists over his 1,000 games. ... Roussel returned to the Canucks' lineup after being held out as a healthy scratch on Monday. ... The Canucks open up the first of three games in Toronto on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.
The Canadian Press