'I'M PRETTY EMBARRASSED': Campbell's record run ends as Maple Leafs fall to Habs

Reacting to their big trades the previous 72 hours, Morgan Rielly declared it “go time” for his Maple Leafs.

Not so fast.

The buzz of landing Nick Foligno, Riley Nash, David Rittich, Ben Hutton and a couple of depth pieces that should’ve translated to an emotionally strong start against the Canadiens on Monday night stayed in the Bell Centre dressing room.

The Leafs stumbled in a 4-2 loss, which stopped cold Jack Campbell’s NHL record run of 11 wins by a goalie to begin a season and the club’s bid for a sixth straight road victory.

A couple were willing to take the blame, Campbell being predictably hard on himself.

“I’m pretty embarrassed by my effort to be honest,” he said of 21 saves, a few that kept it close before Tomas Tatar’s empty netter. “Just not good enough and it cost us the game. I’ll analyze it, learn what I did wrong, which was quite a bit, be ready tomorrow for a good skate and move on.”

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It took the Leafs half the match to get moving and they chased it the rest of the way against the team they could meet in the first round.

“We just weren’t ready to go and that falls on me,” coach Sheldon Keefe said.

Back to Rielly, before the match he said the big moves signalled the Leafs should use their final 15 games to get their playoff patter down. The alternate captain and others were certainly eager to welcome Foligno, the most prominent pick-up.

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“He plays hard, he’s a big man, good in the corners, good with the puck and he’s worked hard over his career to build that reputation,” Rielly said.

The huge investment GM Kyle Dubas made in the newcomers — four high draft picks — puts onus on the Leafs to make it out of the first round for the first time in four tries.

“As players, we have to take that as a big responsibility,” Rielly said. “With the results this year (still comfortably in first place in the North Division) there’s an opportunity for us to play good hockey (in May).”

Captain John Tavares spoke of the “intangibles” Foligno brings.

“The teams he has played on in Columbus have a real strong identity, really believe in what they do and don’t really worry about trying to be something else.”

Auston Matthews said the trades weren’t a distraction in the loss.

“In the end, you have to play a game and we didn’t come out with a lot of structure and purpose in the first period (falling behind 2-0).”

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An aborted breakout by Matthews and the top line on their first shift led to an easy ‘tater for Tatar to knock in. And while Toronto struggles on the power play, now one for its past 37 chances after Monday and ranked last in the NHL since March 11, the penalty killers were also burned for a rare one that Nick Suzuki jumped on. A too-many-men call right after that had Keefe steaming.

Matthews did stretch his lead for the league scoring trophy to nine goals, right under the Rocket Richard’s banner with his 32nd of the year, then Tavares tied it before Josh Anderson restored Montreal’s lead.

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On Monday, the Leafs added rookie forward Nick Robertson and defenceman Timothy Liljegren to the taxi squad from the AHL Marlies, Keefe plugging Robertson right in during this bonus audition time while William Nylander is under quarantine. But Robertson and Pierre Engvall were among those Keefe sat awhile in an effort to push the regulars.

Canadiens’ Josh Anderson celebrates with teammates after scoring on Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell during the second period at Montreal’s Bell Centre. JEAN-YVES AHERN/USA TODAY SPORTS

“It was a challenging start,” Robertson said of knee and groin injuries slowing him all season. “It was a mental grind for me in the AHL, but a blessing in disguise. I’m 19 and it’s something I should go through now than later,”

Rittich, who doesn’t require isolation as he came from the Calgary Flames, will be available Tuesday against his old team in Toronto if Keefe chooses him over Michael Hutchinson.

Keep in mind the Canadiens’ cast on display Monday will also be much different towards the last of four more meetings in May. Goalie Carey Price has been out with a minor injury, Brendan Gallagher has a busted thumb and Jonathan Drouin, in a protracted goal slump, won’t be dry forever. Eric Staal is still getting used to his new surroundings and still to come after quarantine are new defencemen Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson.

The Habs should also have mighty mite Cole Caufield eventually up from the farm, TSN’s Craig Button thinking he could have the same effect Theo Fleury had on Calgary in the 1989 playoffs.

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