Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 5
Saturday, January 17, 1981
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, ON
The game was far from a classic. But it seems that whenever the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens meet, the entertainment is high quality.
When the final buzzer sounded Saturday, the crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens gave the home team a standing ovation, the first this season.
It was also the first time in 27 league and playoff games the Leafs had defeated the Canadiens.
In the Leaf dressing room, Pat Hickey, who scored three goals to lift the Leafs to a 6-5 win, was talking about the new “intensity” in his game.
“It took a long time coming,” he said. “And playing against the Canadiens was a good place to start. You could certainly feel the rivalry.”
Defenceman Robert Picard, who had his best game of the season, handed out a number of body checks against the team for which he used to dream of playing.
“I wanted to show them that, ‘hey, I’m here too, eh?’ – somewhere in this league.”
Meanwhile, Leaf owner Harold Ballard descended from his roost at the north end of the arena to congratulate the troops while coach Mike Nykoluk, smoking his post-game cigar, was telling reporters that the danger to a coach’s health increases directly with the number of times his team blows the lead.
“I’m smoking cheap cigars now,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll last for the expensive ones.”
The Leafs and the Canadiens indeed made the evening a long one for their coaches.
The Canadiens grabbed a quick 2-0 lead early in the first period. Mark Napier took an excellent pass from Larry Robinson at the Toronto blueline and skated past defenceman Ian Turnbull to score on Jiri Crha from close in. Six minutes later Doug Risebrough made the score 2-0 after Borje Salming fell down trying to check him in the Leaf end.
Both teams played wide-open hockey for most of the game, and were sloppy in their own zone. It was mostly giveaways that led to the Canadiens yielding the lead.
Midway in the first period John Anderson picked up a loose puck in the Canadien zone, passed it back to Picard and his low shot from the point was deflected in by Bill Derlago, who played a strong game, adding two assists to his goal.
By the middle of the second the Leafs had scored five more times – three by Hickey, with Barry Melrose and Laurie Boschman getting the other two.
“In the first two periods we made too many fundamental mistakes in our own end,” Canadien coach Claude Ruel said. “We ended up creating chances for the other club.”
It was beginning to look like a rout for the Leafs, but then the ghost of games past returned, the spectre of leads wittered away and games lost.
Late in the second period, Risebrough scored his second goal of the game to narrow the Leafs’ lead to 6-3 and in the third Pierre Mondou and Napier made the score 6-5.
“We still have a tendency to make errors that cost us,” Nykoluk said. “Here’s a club we had 6-2. There’s no reason we should have to sweat it out.
“They have little lapses in assignments. Too often we want to do things the easy way. I hope they’ve learned something from tonight’s game.”
The Canadiens carried the play to the Leafs in the third period and it took a number of excellent stops by Crha to hold the Leafs in the game.
“He was impressive,” Ruel said. “Even though he did let in five goals, we should have had eight or nine.”
Even though the Leafs made a number of errors in their own zone, and took a couple of needless penalties, Hickey said Nykoluk’s coaching method is motivating the team.
“It’s a case of disciplining yourself,” he said. “We work on positional play and it’s a case where you can’t mess up. If you do, you mess it up for the other guys on the team.”
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 19, 1981
MTL GOAL – 02:32 – Napier (Robinson)
MTL PEN – 04:18 – Nilan, fighting major
TOR PEN – 04:18 – Maloney, roughing + fighting major
MTL GOAL – 08:36 – Risebrough (Tremblay, Robinson)
MTL PEN – 10:53 – Langway, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 12:46 – Derlago (Picard, Anderson)
TOR GOAL – 14:30 – Hickey (Vaive, Salming)
TOR GOAL – 18:55 – Melrose (Paiement, Martin)
MTL PEN – 19:37 – Savard, high sticking
TOR PEN – 00:46 – Turnbull, hooking
MTL PEN – 06:59 – Gingras, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 07:35 – Hickey (Derlago, Paiement)
TOR GOAL – 09:21 – Boschman (Anderson, Saganiuk)
TOR GOAL – 10:14 – Hickey (Vaive, Derlago)
TOR PEN – 10:33 – Maloney, tripping
MTL GOAL – 17:31 – Risebrough (Houle, Tremblay)
TOR PEN – 18:17 – Anderson, holding
MTL GOAL – 03:15 – Mondou (Houle, Gainey)
TOR PEN – 05:26 – Farrish, slashing
MTL PEN – 07:17 – Langway, interference
MTL GOAL – 14:26 – Napier (Shutt, Larouche)
TOR – Crha (W, 33-38)
MTL – Sévigny (L, 21-27)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 9+13+5 = 27
MTL – 15+10+13 = 38
TOR – Goaltenders: Jiri Crha, Jim Rutherford. Defence: Dave Farrish, Barry Melrose, Robert Picard, Borje Salming, David Shand, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: John Anderson, Laurie Boschman, Bill Derlago, Pat Hickey, Dan Maloney, Terry Martin, Bill McCreary Jr., Wilf Paiement, Rocky Saganiuk, Darryl Sittler (C), Rick Vaive.
MTL – Goaltenders: Michel Larocque, Richard Sévigny. Defence: Brian Engblom, Gaston Gingras, Rod Langway, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard (C). Forwards: Bob Gainey, Réjean Houle, Doug Jarvis, Yvon Lambert, Pierre Larouche, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Chris Nilan, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, Doug Wickenheiser.