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Bunting scores twice, Leafs down Canadiens in Toronto debuts for O'Reilly, Acciari

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ryan O'Reilly (90) celebrates with goaltender Joseph Woll (60) and teammates after the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens in NHL hockey action, in Toronto on Saturday, Feb.18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ryan O'Reilly (90) celebrates with goaltender Joseph Woll (60) and teammates after the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens in NHL hockey action, in Toronto on Saturday, Feb.18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
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Ryan O'Reilly started his day in St. Louis and ended it in Chicago.

In between, one of the newest Maple Leafs made a memorable, time-zone crossing debut with the team that hopes he can help it get over an ugly playoff hump.

Michael Bunting scored twice Saturday as Toronto defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in the first game in blue and white for O'Reilly and Noel Acciari.

The veteran forwards were acquired from the St. Louis Blues in a blockbuster trade late Friday — and were in the action at Scotiabank Arena just over 20 hours later.

"Crazy,” said O'Reilly, who had an assist. "Great just to dive right in, get a big win."

Pierre Engvall, with a goal and an assist, William Nylander and David Kampf provided the rest of the offence for Toronto (34-14-8). Joseph Woll made 29 saves. Auston Matthews and Rasmus Sandin each picked up two assists.

Josh Anderson replied for rebuilding Montreal (23-29-4), which got 36 stops from Jake Allen.

"The expectation's the same," Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis said of his undermanned group. "Just be engaged as a player and keep working on the things that we're talking about."

O'Reilly and Acciari were dealt shortly before 11 p.m. ET on Friday and on a plane early to get to Toronto in time to face Montreal despite the fact the Leafs are set to play the Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday.

The pair could have met their teammates in the Windy City, but were adamant their first taste of Leafs life would come on home ice.

"Kind of like going into cold water," O'Reilly said. "Better to just jump in headfirst instead of tiptoe in. This was a little extreme in the sense of going here and then taking off right now — it's a little crazy — but a nice way to do it."

"Don't want to waste any time," Acciari added. "Played against these guys for a while now … being able to play with them is fun. I don't have to the chase them around anymore."

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said one of the hiccups in getting to Toronto in time for Saturday's tilt was the fact both players didn't have their equipment when the trade was made official.

"O'Reilly might have found a way to acquire the keys to the building to go get his gear," Keefe said with a smile. "And he grabbed Acciari's while he was there. That just speaks to what those guys are about. There's the on-ice things that everyone's going to see.

"I got a glimpse into what they're going to bring to our room."

Woll, meanwhile, didn't know about the trade until Saturday morning when he got to the rink.

"It was pretty funny," said the rookie goaltender from the St. Louis area. "I was looking at the lineup chart (and) was like, 'What happened to our lines?'"

After the laughter from reporters in the locker room subsided, Woll said he does indeed own a smartphone.

He just doesn't have social media.

"Live in the dark with that stuff," Woll said. "I literally had no idea."

Down 1-0 in the second period, Bunting scored his 17th goal of the season on a power play before Engvall made it 2-1 with his 12th.

Bunting added his second with 1:40 left in the period on a sequence that saw O'Reilly pick up a secondary assist.

Nylander stretched the lead to 4-1 four minutes into the third with his team-leading 31st and Kampf rounded out the scoring late with his fifth.

Dealt to the Leafs along with Acciari for four draft picks in a swap that included Minnesota for salary cap purposes, O'Reilly, who won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with St. Louis in 2019, was announced as part of the starting lineup between John Tavares and Mitch Marner.

"They're trying to win," O'Reilly said of a franchise that's lost six straight post-season series. "There's tons of work that has to happen, but it's rejuvenating to be around that kind of energy."

The 32-year-old from Clinton, Ont. — a town some 200 kilometres west of Toronto — nearly scored on his first shift before Acciari almost did the same later in the period.

The injury-riddled Canadiens pushed ahead in the second when Anderson tipped his 16th — and 13th all-time against Toronto — past Woll, who got the start with Ilya Samsonov (illness) and Matt Murray (ankle) unavailable before the home side responded.

"I catch myself every few hours," O'Reilly said. "It's just been a whirlwind. It's nice to be with the boys and start this process. It's a great team.

"Very excited to be part of it."

ACCIARI IMPRESSED

The gritty centre was part of the Boston teams that eliminated Toronto in both the 2018 and 2019 playoffs.

The core of Matthews, Tavares, Marner and Nylander remains intact for the Leafs, but Acciari has seen growth.

"They added a lot more to their game — it's two-way," said the 31-year-old. "These guys are top players in the league, but they've added aspects (that) helped their game and made them more difficult to play against."

UP NEXT

Leafs: Visit Chicago on Sunday.

Canadiens: Visit New Jersey on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2023. 

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