Defenceman Mikko Kokkonen also scored for Toronto (2-1-1). Forward Noah Gregor, who’s impressed so far in training camp on a professional tryout, pitched in with an assist.
Starter Ilya Samsonov made 17 saves in two periods without allowing a goal before giving way to backup Keith Petruzzelli, who made six stops.
Josh Anderson scored the lone goal for Montreal (1-2-0). Canadiens netminder Cayden Primeau, who will play third-string to Samuel Montembeault and Jake Allen this season, played the entire game. He made 27 saves.
Neither team iced its ‘A’ lineup, with Montreal’s Nick Suzuki and Caufield and Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, among others, sitting out. The two teams meet again in Montreal on Saturday.
Toronto was 0-for-2 on the power play. Montreal went 0-for-6, receiving several “boos” from the Bell Centre crowd due to the lack of cohesion with the man advantage.
Tanner Pearson played alongside Brendan Gallagher and Jake Evans in his pre-season debut for the Canadiens. Montreal acquired the 31-year-old winger and a third-round pick from the Vancouver Canucks on Sept. 19 for goaltender Casey DeSmith.
Pearson, who had one goal and four assists in 14 games last season after missing most of the campaign with a broken hand that needed multiple surgeries, had three shots on goal and a hit.
With the stars out, Knies looked like the best player on the ice much of the evening.
Knies broke the deadlock short-handed at 10:23 of the second period, scoring with a wrist shot from the slot after a feed from Fraser Minten, who stripped defenceman Justin Barron in his own end.
The 20-year-old American had one assist in three regular-season games and four points (one goal, three assists) in seven playoff games with the Maple Leafs late last season. He joined the team after spending most of his year at the University of Minnesota.
Toronto had another chance moments later from Logan Shaw, but Primeau shut that down.
Montreal then countered with chance after chance, one coming from John Parker-Jones. The six-foot-seven, 230-pound forward was all over the ice for the Canadiens.
Kokkonen doubled Toronto’s lead later in the frame with an innocent wrist shot from the point that deflected off Montreal’s Owen Beck and slid through Primeau’s pads.
In the third period, Knies and Minten connected once again for a Grade A chance on the penalty kill, but couldn’t beat Primeau.
Anderson got Montreal on the scoresheet with just over five minutes left, hammering a pass from Sean Monahan into the top left corner.
Montreal had a power play with a minute remaining after Toronto’s Timothy Liljegren sent the puck over the glass. Despite sustaining pressure with the goalie pulled and a Gallagher chance on the doorstep, the Canadiens couldn’t net the equalizer.
The first period was uneventful, with neither team generating much offence as the shots finished 8-7 in favour of Montreal.
Knies, perhaps foreshadowing what was to come, generated one of the period’s better chances on the penalty kill when he stole the puck off Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen and set up Minten in the slot.
Most of Montreal’s chances were generated by a line of Beck, Ylonen and Joshua Roy, which found success on the forecheck but couldn’t beat Samsonov.
Maple Leafs defenceman John Klingberg and forward William Nylander did not participate in the team’s practice on Friday. Klingberg is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, while Nylander is experiencing flu-like symptoms.
The two teams play again in Montreal on Saturday.