TORONTO — Michael Bunting scored twice as the Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 on Saturday night in the Toronto debuts for Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari.
The forwards were acquired from the St. Louis Blues in a blockbuster three-team trade late Friday — and were in action just over 20 hours later.
“In terms of the two guys, they come as advertised in terms of their personality, character, and the way they fit in,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said after the win. “They are two veteran players who are very experienced and accomplished guys that can fit right in right away. The new guys fit in really well.
“That was great to see for sure. It is going to really, really help us. It is tremendous.”
O’Reilly, who helped the Blues to their first Stanley Cup title in 2019 and brings title pedigree to a team desperate to advance past the first round, received the start in his first game on his new home ice.
“For me, I am doing it for the player, but I am also doing it for our fans. I am sure they are excited for us to add a guy like him. They get a chance to acknowledge him and see him out of the gate,” Keefe said. “Like anything else, you give him a good moment. It is not just him. Even in the room, you get a good reaction from the rest of the team. They are excited for him.
“That was great. It was a tremendous shift, too. It was all good.”
And for O’Reilly, it is something he soon won’t forget.
“That start. Starting here was special. You feel the energy in this building,” he said. “There’s a reason it’s the Mecca of hockey. The energy that surrounds it. … It’s something you don’t get many other places.”
Pierre Engvall, William Nylander and David Kampf scored for Toronto. Joseph Woll made 29 saves. Auston Matthews and Rasmus Sandin each picked up two assists.
Josh Anderson scored 42 seconds into the second period for Montreal, which got 37 stops from Jake Allen.
Down 1-0 in the second period, Bunting took a pass from Matthews on a power play and scored his 17th before Engvall made it 2-1 when he fired a shot Allen could only get a piece of for his 12th.
Bunting added his second of the night with 1:40 left in the period off a Calle Jarnkrok feed that saw O’Reilly pick up an assist.
Nylander stretched the lead to 4-1 four minutes into the third with his team-leading 31st goal following some great work down low from Matthews.
Kampf rounded out the scoring late with his fifth of the season, and first in 28 games.
Dealt to the Leafs along with Acciari for four draft picks — including Toronto’s 2023 first-round selection — 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, started on a line between John Tavares and Mitchell Marner.
O’Reilly joins defenseman Mark Giordano as a former NHL captain in Toronto’s locker room alongside Tavares. Giordano was a long-time captain of the Calgary Flames.
“I don’t think you can ever have enough,” Tavares said of leadership. “Being the captain doesn’t mean you have all the answers. You need different people to lead in different ways.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.