Game 597 – Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 5

Game 597
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 5
Wednesday, December 29, 1982
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

It was as though Dan Daoust and the Toronto Maple Leafs had somehow turned back the clock more than a decade last night at Maple Leaf Gardens.

On this one night, of what has been the most dreadful of all National Hockey League seasons for the Leafs, the grand old rivalry between the Leafs and the Montréal Canadiens was what it once had been.

It was a rollicking, rolling night at the Gardens, this night on which the Leafs overwhelmed the Canadiens far more thoroughly than the final 6-5 margin of victory might indicate.

It was a night in which the Leafs made a crowd, which had come out to watch the Flying Frenchmen, forget the cynical disdain in which they had held the home team and become Leaf rooters again.

And it was Daoust, the odd-man out in the Montréal scheme of things, that turned on the Leafs and their fans with a swashbuckling, reckless performance for his new team.

The scoresheet makes stars of Rick Vaive and Billy Harris, whose third-period goals ended a 4-4 tie and a 10-game winless string for the Leafs. But it is Daoust who has set the tone for the Leafs since he arrived, his willingness to sacrifice his 160-pound body being the key to three strong team efforts in four games.

With Daoust in the lineup, the Leafs have lost 4-3 to the league-leading Chicago Black Hawks, tied Montréal 4-4 on Tuesday night and won last night in a game in which only a so-so performance by ex-Montréal goaltender Bunny Larocque kept the Canadiens close.

Daoust has had a point in each of his four games with the Leafs, including their one poor performance in his presence, a 7-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues. “You can’t really say enough about the guy,” Vaive, his linemate, said. “He’s not very big, but he hits as much as anybody in the league. “He hits so much, everybody on the bench says, ‘If he does it, why can’t I?’ He’s 20 pounds lighter than the rest of us.” “He’s a competitor and he gives everybody a shot in the arm,” coach Mike Nykoluk said.

Daoust seemed to be everywhere, setting up another Vaive goal, jostling his former Montréal teammates, infuriating Pierre Mondou and finally belting him as hard as any Leaf has hit an opponent all season.

But the victory did not belong to Daoust alone on a night when the Leafs relentlessly swept away the Canadiens and gave the customers a reason to stay around until the finish.

They have never played better this season than they did in the first 11 minutes of the second period, when they outshot the Habs 15-0 and only the brilliance of rookie netminder Mark Holden kept the visitors in the game.

But Larocque, still rebuilding his strength after a long bout with stomach flu, was shaky enough to let the Habs make a comeback.

He was caught out of position on a pair of goals by Mark Napier that cut the Leaf lead to 4-3 and 6-5 and was saved by Borje Salming on another misplay, but it was a goal by Swedish rookie Mats Naslund that created the 4-4 tie.

It was Harris, scoring his second goal in as many games against Montréal, who put the Leafs back in front, completing a three-way passing play that included Greg Terrion and Mike Kaszycki, with a long shot that beat Holden.

Leaf defenceman Dave Farrish dug the puck out of traffic behind the Montréal net to set up what turned out to be the winning goal.

Farrish passed the puck to John Anderson, who slid a pass out to Vaive in the high slot area. Vaive drew back his stick and fired a shot that Holden had no chance to block.

Besides the goal by Harris and the two by Vaive, the Leafs got a pair of first-period goals from Walt Poddubny and a goal by defenceman Barry Melrose, his first of the season.

The Canadiens got two goals by Napier and singles by Naslund, Mondou and Mario Tremblay.

The win ended a 10-game victory drought for the Leafs that included only two ties and began, strangely, after the Leafs had upset another of the league’s powerhouses, the New York Islanders, 4-1, on December 4.

So on this one night the Leafs had their fans on their feet and cheering, reminding them of the good old days of the 1960s when the Leafs were on top.

But that good feeling won’t last long if the Leafs don’t snag at least three of the four available points in a pair of home games against two of the league’s other also-rans.

Toronto plays the Hartford Whalers on Saturday night and follows up with a rare Sunday home game with the Detroit Red Wings, the team they must overtake for the fourth and final playoff position in the Norris Division.

Last night’s win left Toronto eight points behind the Wings, who tied the Minnesota North Stars 5-5.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 30, 1982

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 09:03 – Poddubny (Nigro, Ihnacak)
MTL PEN – 12:17 – Gainey, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 13:07 – Poddubny
TOR PEN – 14:17 – Anderson, hooking
MTL PP GOAL – 16:17 – Tremblay (Robinson, Lafleur)
MTL PEN – 18:46 – Tremblay, slashing
TOR PEN – 18:46 – Daoust, slashing

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 03:55 – Root, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 05:38 – Vaive (Daoust, Korn)
TOR GOAL – 09:18 – Melrose (Terrion, Harris)
TOR PEN – 13:36 – Korn, interference
MTL GOAL – 16:49 – Mondou (Tremblay, Naslund)
MTL GOAL – 18:17 – Napier (Picard, Robinson)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 02:27 – Root, hooking
MTL GOAL – 07:38 – Naslund (Mondou, Napier)
TOR GOAL – 08:36 – Harris (Terrion, Kaszycki)
MTL PEN – 09:08 – Root, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 10:43 – Vaive (Anderson, Farrish)
TOR PEN – 11:52 – Poddubny, hooking
MTL GOAL – 15:02 – Napier

TOR – Larocque (W, 23-28)
MTL – Holden (L, 32-38)

TORGoaltenders: Michel Larocque, Vincent Tremblay. Defence: Jim Benning, Gaston Gingras, Jim Korn, Dave Farrish, Barry Melrose, Borje Salming. Forwards: John Anderson, Dan Daoust, Billy Harris, Peter Ihnacak, Mike Kaszycki, Marc Magnan, Terry Martin, Frank Nigro, Walt Poddubny, Greg Terrion, Rick Vaive (C).
MTLGoaltenders: Mark Holden, Richard Sévigny. Defence: Gilbert Delorme, Rick Green, Craig Ludwig, Robert Picard, Larry Robinson, Bill Root. Forwards: Keith Acton, Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey (C), Réjean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Mats Naslund, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, Ryan Walter, Doug Wickenheiser.

TOR – 6-21-7 (.279)
MTL – 20-10-8 (.632)