Updated at: 04/27/2013 10:35 PM
(AP) TORONTO - Lars Eller had a goal and two assists and the Montreal Canadiens sent Toronto a pre-playoff message Saturday night, defeating the sluggish Maple Leafs 4-1.
The Canadiens did it without No. 1 goalie Carey Price, who was given the night off in favor of Peter Budaj. Rubbing salt into the wound, Montreal chased Toronto starter James Reimer early in the third period.
Toronto and Montreal could meet in the playoffs depending on the outcome of the makeup game Sunday between the Senators and Bruins in Boston.
Once again Toronto suffered from a lack of shots, with just six in the first period. It got worse in the second period when the Leafs managed just one shot despite three power plays.
Montreal outshot Toronto 28-17 on the night. And by the final whistle the Leafs had lost their discipline with a string of penalties.
The lack of shots is cause of concern given that Toronto managed just five shots in the second period and one in the third of its previous outing, a 4-0 win in Florida on Thursday. That’s 14 shots in four periods.
Andrei Markov, Brendan Gallagher and Thomas Plekanec also scored for Montreal.
Phil Kessel scored his 20th goal of the season for Toronto, notching his 10th goal in as many games
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle replaced Reimer with Ben Scrivens after Montreal made it 4-1 on the Canadiens’ 23rd shot, a soft goal at 2:25 of the third period. Before that, Reimer had gotten little help from his teammates.
The Leafs chased Price in their last meeting, beating him three times on just four shots in a 5-1 win April 13 at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto came into the game having won three of the four previous meetings between the two this season, outscoring the Canadiens 15-7. The Habs’ lone win before Saturday was a 5-2 decision Feb. 27 in Toronto.
Montreal had gone 2-5-0 since clinching its playoff spot April 11 with a win in Buffalo.
Toronto’s first-line center Tyler Bozak sat out for the second game in a row with an upper-body injury. Nazem Kadri took his place alongside Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk or Joffrey Lupul.
The Leaf power play produced a first-period goal, but was more miss than hit in going 1 for 7. One second-period man-advantage saw Dion Phaneuf mishandle the puck at the blue-line, a Leafs player fire the puck into the netting above the glass and an icing call.
Mayhem seemed imminent when Carlyle started Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren and Mark Fraser for the opening faceoff. Orr and Montreal’s Brandon Prust were jawing before the puck drop but stuck to hockey after one of the referees skated over to have words.
After an energetic start, Toronto faded fast.
The Canadiens went without a shot for the first 11 minutes of the game, but ended the period outshooting Toronto 9-6. There was no shortage of hits, however, with 23 for Toronto and 16 for Montreal in the first 20 minutes alone.
Kessel opened the scoring on the power play at 15:36 of the first period, firing a shot through the legs of defenseman of Raphael Diaz and then through more traffic (Lupul and defenseman Josh Georges) in front of Budaj.
Eller tied it up at 18:01 with his eighth of the season, tucking the puck in off a sprawled Reimer’s skate as he flew past the crease. Markov made it 2-1 at 4:19 of the second period, slamming home his 10th of the season on a screen shot from the point.
Gallagher increased the lead at 9:18 when he beat Carl Gunnarson to the puck in front of the goal, tucking in his 15th of the season. Seconds before the goal, Kadri had tried to make a big hit at center ice, but missed his target and instead slammed into the glass.
The shots were 20-7 in favor of Montreal after two periods.
Plekanec, notching his 14th of the season, beat Reimer with a shot over the shoulder to pad the lead to 4-1 that ended the goalie’s night.
McLaren got an early shower at 3:05 of the third when he got minors for roughing and charging, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct after misbehaving during a melee.
Toronto’s Clarke MacArthur also exited early with minors for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct.
NOTE: Two sweater-clad Leafs fans did the traditional dance in their seats wearing Wendel Clark and Darryl Sittler masks during a break in the first period. But this night, when they took the masks off, it turned out to be the real Clark and Sittler.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)