Game 593 – Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 2

Game 593
Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 2
Saturday, December 12, 1981
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

One of the most remarkable things about Mike Nykoluk’s tenure as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs is that he never made an excuse for one of his team’s dreadful performances.

He finally came close Saturday night, but the near-exhaustion of the Leaf supply of left wingers was more a reason than an excuse for Toronto’s 6-2 National Hockey League loss to the Montréal Canadiens.

John Anderson, Terry Martin and Stewart Gavin were all watching from the sidelines as Bill Derlago, Ron Zanussi and Rocky Saganiuk tried, without success, to play a strange position, left wing.

“You can’t make up makeshift lines, like having right wingers play the left, against a team like Montréal,” Nykoluk said. “You can get away with it maybe against other clubs.”

Anderson, the Leafs’ leading scorer, suffered a hyper-extended left elbow last Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets. Martin, who received a charley horse Friday against the Washington Capitals, tried to skate before Saturday’s game and couldn’t.

Gavin separated a shoulder in the opening game of the season. Martin should return for Wednesday’s game at Vancouver; the other two and defenceman Borje Salming will be held back until the weekend, when the Leafs visit Winnipeg and the Chicago Black Hawks.

“I know the guys are really anxious to get back playing, but I just hate to press them in there unless they’re 100 per cent,” Nykoluk said. “I would really prefer to use them against Winnipeg and Chicago.” Both teams are in the Leafs’ division.

On Saturday, the Leafs missed Salming, who has a shoulder injury, as much as their left wingers. The young defencemen who have improved in his absence – notably Fred Boimistruck and Jim Benning – appeared overmatched.

A pair of young Montréal forwards – Keith Acton and Mark Hunter – accounted for the margin of victory with two goals each, but it was the difference in defences that decided the game.

In the first 14 seconds, the Habs broke through the Leaf defence for three shots on goal and swarmed around goalie Bunny Larocque. Acton, Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson all shot right at Larocque before Boimistruck hauled somebody down and stopped the play.

That was the way it went all night for Larocque, who kept standing his ground while old Montréal teammates kept coming in at him – though, around and behind the fuzzy-checked Leaf defenders. Leaf sorties were broken up by the steady veterans playing defence for the Canadiens.

“It was one of the games that I thought our young defence looked a little in awe of some of the Canadiens,” Nykoluk said. “We had a few good scoring chances, but Montréal did a pretty good job in front of the net.”

The young Leaf defenders were a great tonic for Acton, the Ken Linseman clone who has returned to his early season form by a chance to play again between Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt – who had been in slumps of their own with Pierre Larouche as their centre.

The move also produced a goal and an assist for Lafleur, who hadn’t had a point in seven games. Saturday’s points made him number two on the Canadiens’ scoring list, giving him 1,048 points to Jean Béliveau’s 1,219.

Leaf captain Darryl Sittler and Lafleur had scored in the first period, but Acton and Hunter, playing on a tough-guy line with Doug Risebrough and Chris Nilan, gave the Habs the lead in the second period. Acton scored the go-ahead goal on a rebound off the post.

The Leafs’ René Robert cut the lead in the first minute of the third period, but Montréal took charge after that and Acton, Pierre Mondou and Hunter padded the lead.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 14, 1981

1st Period
TOR PEN – 00:14 – Boimistruck, interference
MTL PEN – 01:00 – Shutt, interference
TOR GOAL – 04:09 – Sittler (Maloney, Robert)
MTL GOAL – 06:14 – Lafleur (Acton, Robinson)
TOR PEN – 16:16 – Paiement, roughing
MTL PEN – 16:16 – Langway, roughing
TOR PEN – 19:20 – Manno, holding

2nd Period
MTL PP GOAL – 00:35 – Acton (Lafleur, Lapointe)
MTL GOAL – 03:17 – Hunter (Robinson, Nilan)
TOR PEN – 03:31 – Godden, interference
MTL PEN – 04:47 – Robinson, interference
TOR PEN – 05:21 – Paiement, tripping
MTL PEN – 06:12 – Lapointe, holding
TOR PEN – 13:05 – Melrose, interference
MTL PEN – 14:35 – Mondou, interference
MTL PEN – 18:47 – Lapointe, tripping
TOR PEN – 19:30 – Boschman, roughing double minor + misconduct
MTL PEN – 19:30 – Sévigny, roughing

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 00:52 – Robert (Sittler, Paiement)
MTL PP GOAL – 02:08 – Acton (Napier, Picard)
MTL PEN – 05:37 – Engblom, holding
TOR PEN – 06:20 – Vaive, high sticking + fighting major
MTL PEN – 06:20 – Lapointe, interference + fighting major
TOR PEN – 06:44 – Robert, tripping
MTL GOAL – 09:21 – Mondou (Laughlin, Tremblay)
MTL GOAL – 10:29 – Hunter (Risebrough, Nilan)

MTL – Sévigny (W, 22-24)
TOR – Larocque (L, 30-36)

MTL – 8+13+15 = 36
TOR – 7+6+11 = 24

MTLGoaltenders: Denis Herron, Richard Sévigny. Defence: Brian Engblom, Rod Langway, Guy Lapointe, Robert Picard, Larry Robinson. Forwards: Keith Acton, Bob Gainey (C), Mark Hunter, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Craig Laughlin, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Chris Nilan, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay.
TORGoaltenders: Michel Larocque, Vincent Tremblay. Defence: Jim Benning, Fred Boimistruck, Greg Hotham, Bob Manno, Barry Melrose. Forwards: Laurie Boschman, Bill Derlago, John Gibson, Ernie Godden, Don Luce, Dan Maloney, Wilf Paiement, René Robert, Rocky Saganiuk, Darryl Sittler (C), Rick Vaive, Ron Zanussi.

MTL – 13-7-9 (.603)
TOR – 7-15-7 (.362)