Preseason Game 24 – Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 3

Preseason Game 24
Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 3
Wednesday, September 22, 1982
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The crowd was dwindling down to a precious few by the time the Toronto Maple Leafs finished disgracing themselves against the Montréal Canadiens last night.

No more than 4,000 masochists suffered through the closing minutes of the Leafs’ 6-3 loss to the Montréal Canadiens.

Twelve thousand or so customers were in the stands for the start of a game that, as part of the team’s season ticket package, goes into the books as a sellout.

But when Leaf goalie Jiri Crha, under siege for most of his 30 minutes in the game, let in two soft goals that allowed the Canadiens to take charge of the game in the second period, the sufferers began to drift away.

By the end, there were guesses at how many customers had stuck around. “Don’t forget to count the people in the private boxes,” somebody said.

“You can’t count them,” was the answer. “They’d be gone too, but we locked the doors on them.”

What the Leafs’ four exhibition losses have established is that the help wanted sign hung out for various jobs by Leaf coach Mike Nykoluk is drawing few serious applications.

“We’re seeing guys muscled aside,” said the Leaf coach, who huddled with general manager Gerry McNamara after the game. “When we go after the puck, we just sort of let ourselves be brushed aside.

“I thought we played well enough in the first period, but in the second period we got to be puck watchers. We were watching the puck instead of the players and we got caught.

“Here we are with jobs open. Maybe we have some people who are content to play at St. Catharines (the Maple Leaf farm team).”

There were some bright spots. Vince Tremblay had his neck strained in a goalmouth collision and then took a shot in the face mask and still turned in the best performance by a Leaf goaltender so far this fall.

And Gary Nylund, the giant rookie defenceman, turned in an intelligent, steady game and stood up to Chris Nilan in a third period scrap the Montréal enforcer won by no more than a narrow decision.

But too many other Leafs were content to let the Canadiens set the tone for the game, to let themselves be outworked and outbumped as they did all last season.

And the team’s chief vacancy, centre, showed no sign of being filled. Nykoluk still counts on new Czechoslovak import Peter Ihnacak to fill one vacancy when he returns from a twisted ankle and Bill Derlago is one of the best of the veterans on the team, but the other two positions are as vacant as they were the day training camp opened.

The second period gift goals that Crha gave up must have been especially distressing for the little Czechoslovak, a long shot for a big league job trying to come back from a disabling back injury.

He made a pair of splendid stops in the first period, on Mark Hunter in the first few seconds and on Réjean Houle in the fifth minute.

The Montréal lead early in the second period was only 3-1 when Crha caved in and the Canadiens took charge of the game.

First, he fanned on a long shot by Rick Green from the right point, just inside the blueline. Then he got only a piece of a shot from Keith Acton from well out, making the score 5-1, and the rest of the game was a formality.

But even a Ken Dryden couldn’t have plugged the dike for a Leaf defence that let the Canadiens roam their end at will in the final 40 minutes.

On the only goal given up by Tremblay, for example, a falling Fred Boimistruck handed Doug Wickenheiser the puck as he moved into the slot all alone. Tremblay stopped two shots by the unmolested Wickenheiser, but couldn’t stop a third.

The other three Montréal goals were scored by Mario Tremblay, Mark Hunter and Réjean Houle. The Leaf goalscorers were rookie Gary Leeman, Terry Martin and Bill Derlago.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, September 23, 1982

1st Period
TOR PEN – 00:02 – Melrose
TOR PEN – 04:18 – Salming
TOR GOAL – 08:02 – Leeman
MTL GOAL – 13:30 – Tremblay (Mondou, Schofield)
TOR PEN – 15:44 – Martin
MTL PEN – 17:26 – Mondou
MTL PEN – 17:59 – Shutt

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 02:20 – Vaive
MTL PP GOAL – 02:50 – Houle (Tremblay, Ludwig)
MTL GOAL – 05:45 – Hunter
TOR PEN – 07:44 – Vaive
MTL PEN – 07:44 – Ludwig
MTL GOAL – 08:48 – Green
MTL GOAL – 09:43 – Acton
MTL PEN – 11:39 – Ludwig
TOR GOAL – 17:30 – Martin (Frycer, Salming)
TOR PEN – 18:36 – Salming
MTL PEN – 18:36 – Houle
MTL GOAL – 18:56 – Wickenheiser (Shutt)

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 03:21 – Melrose
MTL PEN – 11:51 – Nilan, fighting major
TOR PEN – 11:51 – Nylund, fighting major
MTL PEN – 17:30 – Schofield
TOR PEN – 17:30 – Korn
MTL PEN – 19:11 – Nilan
TOR PP GOAL – 19:53 – Derlago (Vaive, Anderson)

MTL – Holden (W, 10-11), Sévigny (14-16)
TOR – Crha (L, 9-14), Tremblay (13-14)

MTL – 7+13+8 = 28
TOR – 6+10+11 = 27