Morgan Rielly scored a 5-4 win for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montreal Canadiens

after 3:24 overtime

TORONTO – The Maple Leafs spent much of the off-season redesigning the edges of their roster

Grit and veteran leadership have been added to a talented group desperately trying to change the narrative of past playoff mistakes

Many of these new items were fully exhibited on Wednesday night before Toronto’s longest-serving player had his team lift the curtain on the NHL’s 56-game shortened schedule in style

Morgan Rielly scored 3:24 in overtime when the Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in a fanless Scotiabank Arena due to COVID-19 restrictions

The defender took a feed from Toronto captain John Tavares in the 2v1 game and defeated Montreal goalkeeper Carey Price to end a chaotic overtime where each team had great chances of scooping the bonus point

“With these OTs, breaks really matter,” said Rielly. “They had an outlier before, that was probably my fault

On a normal opening night, fans of the Original Six rivals would have come into downtown Toronto and dueling chants echoed around the building instead of the noise of the crowd

“We’re just grateful to play,” said Rielly, now in its eighth season with the Leafs, “We’re going to have the most fun we can”

William Nylander scored twice, adding one assist for Toronto, while Tavares had one goal and two assists. Jimmy Vesey scored his first goal for Toronto, which earned Frederik Andersen 28 saves

The Leafs credited bloody newcomer Wayne Simmonds, who made his debut with Joe Thornton, T.J Brodie and Zach Bogosian, who set the bench on fire when he fought Canadian defender Ben Chiarot 3-1 in the middle of the second half

“That was a turning point,” said Nylander. “He got the guys going. We were a bit soft and slow at the beginning”

Josh Anderson responded with two goals in his first game for Montreal, while Nick Suzuki with one goal and one assist and Tomas Tatar provided the rest of the offensive for the visitors. Jonathan Drouin and Jeff Petry each added two assists

“Starting the season in Toronto is very special,” said Anderson, who grew up in nearby Burlington, Ont. “We wanted to take the two points, but it’s been a long year”

“Don’t get too excited, it’s tough games,” said Rielly with a grin when asked if he was looking forward to nine more competitions against Montreal. “We’re going to play hard, I would expect the same from them

After the Leafs cleared a two-goal deficit late in the second, Anderson registered his second goal of the night from 1:03 to third by circling Tavares and firing a shot that left the Leafs netminder beneath his right arm slapped to make him 4-3

Toronto’s Andersen then a few minutes later, Montreal’s Anderson denied his hat-trick in his first career on the doorstep

As one of the Leafs’ lesser-known additions, Vesey used a random ricochet with 10:33 in regulation when Drouin’s clearing attempt hit an official Nylander jumped on the loose puck and quickly fed the winger in front

Auston Matthews, who had scored in his four previous openings, tore a shot off the post behind the Montreal goalkeeper who set the stage for overtime

“Wasn’t that fun?” Thornton asked “The guys were down early but we managed to get back and what a great finish from (Rielly)

The five other NHL franchises in Toronto, Montreal, and Canada play in the North Division for only one season that is required for non-essential travel due to border regulations

Hockey was returning, but it didn’t look like a regular season opener in history as the pandemic loomed

The teams hit the ice more than 19 years ago000 free seats – Canadian fans and those in most NHL cities at least not allowed into the arena – starting tarpaulins, most of which were adorned with corporate sponsors, covered the first six rows, and the coaches wore a league-mandated mask behind the benches

Music boomed, the public address announcer went through standard spectator safety precautions, and Leafs winger Mitch Marner even tossed a puck into the stands at the end of the warm-up as if fans were asking for a souvenir

The 48 Highlanders, who have played every home game in Toronto since Maple Leaf Gardens was completed in 1931, have kept the tradition alive – albeit virtually

Frontline workers including doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and teachers presented Toronto’s starting grid, hymn singer Martina Ortiz Luis played “O Canada” from the empty stands instead of the ice level and this artificial noise from the crowd added to the atmosphere as soon as the action started

“As soon as the game starts, you’re trapped in it,” said Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. “It just feels like hockey,”

Both teams participated in the league’s summer restart after the coronavirus forced the NHL to suspend the 2019-20 schedule in March, but left the Toronto Bubble with very different experiences and feelings

The Leafs came into the game with high hopes only to be knocked out by Columbus in five-game qualifiers, while the Canadiens – in 24th place Lifeline from 24 teams included in the format – Pittsburgh angry before walking in the first round of the playoffs with Philadelphia together

Every squad underwent significant off-season changes, with Toronto looking to change its culture and Montreal keen to improve the standings

The Leafs added Thornton – the 41-year-old is in his 23rd birthday NHL season – and Simmonds up front, and Brodie and Bogosian down the back. The Canadians’ new faces include Anderson and Tyler Toffoli, defenseman Joel Edmundson and substitute goalkeeper Jake Allen

Montreal opened the first hit in the power play at 12:49 p.m. on Wednesday when Suzuki buried a shot from an acute angle before Nylander replied 3:07 later

The Canadiens took the lead late in the day when Anderson, who was taken over by Columbus in Max Domi trading, opened his account through the slot

Montreal returned to man advantage in game two, and after Andersen stopped Drouin all alone, Tatar made no mistake on another breakaway at 7:20 am

The badass Simmonds later dropped the gloves with Chiarot during this period and scored a win in his first fight with his hometown club

The Leafs made it 3-2, two minutes from the end of a power game when Nylander considered another shot at Price

Toronto then had a two-man advantage, and Marner fed Tavares up front to tie it up at 387 seconds to go

“We miss our fans in a fun, back-and-forth game like this,” said Keefe. “It would have been nice to have them here, but we have to get used to it

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World News – CA – Rielly scores in extra time when Maple Leafs takes on Canadiens in the opener