Game 605 – Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 3

Game 605
Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 3
Saturday, December 7, 1985
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

It was once the quintessential National Hockey League confrontation.

But the young Toronto Maple Leafs of 1985, a team struggling to regain respectability, aren’t quite ready to recreate the rivalry with the Montréal Canadiens that conjures up memories of “The Rocket” and Syl Apps, “The Big M” and Jean Béliveau, Davey Keon and “The Pocket Rocket.”

Mind you, they tried last night before 16,382 customers at the Gardens, and that probably was their downfall as they ended up on the short side of a 6-3 score.

The loss was the Leafs’ first in three outings and their initial defeat in seven games at home.

It was, perhaps, the dizzying height of such unfamiliar success that made them just a little bit cocky going into last night’s game.

It might well have made them forget how they had beaten the tough Philadelphia Flyers, 6-3, on Thursday in the Spectrum.

It might have caused them to think they could get into a free-wheeling skating exhibition against the Canadiens, who may no longer be the Flying Frenchmen but who still possess the ability to scoot across the ice like a waterbug on a still pond.

“In Philadelphia, we played with our heads,” said Toronto centre Russ Courtnall. “We didn’t play as smart tonight.

“Maybe, because we hadn’t lost in our last six at home we were getting our confidence back and we were trying to make pretty plays.

“Instead of making a short pass to the nearest man, we were trying to make the long pass. Instead of firing a hard pass we were making soft ones that were getting picked off.

“It’s hard to explain why got away from the style that was successful against Philly.”

Dan Hodgson, who scored one of Leafs’ three goals, offered a possible explanation.

“When you’re playing in front of the home fans you want to put on a good show,” he said. “Maybe we were trying to create some hoopla because Montréal was coming to town. Maybe there was some thoughts in our mind about that old rival between Montréal and Toronto.”

Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for the Leafs.

Although Toronto had as many good scoring chances as the Habs, they didn’t put them to good use.

“That was the story,” said Leafs coach Dan Maloney. “They capitalized on their chances, we didn’t. A couple of turnovers outside our blue line cost us.”

Maloney also pointed out that Leafs got away from the bumping game that had been successful against Philadelphia and Buffalo Sabres last Saturday.

“We allowed them to do what they wanted,” he said. “A guy like Smith can’t be allowed to roam around like he did, especially in our end.”

The Smith whom Maloney was referring to was lanky centre Bobby Smith, who had one of his better nights since joining the Habs almost two years ago from Minnesota North Stars.

He scored two goals and set up two others, while Mats Naslund, Chris Chelios, Lucien DeBlois and Mario Tremblay got one apiece.

Steve Thomas and Marian Stastny, along with Hodgson, were the Leaf marksmen.

Smith’s first goal seemed to set the pattern of play.

He moved into the Leafs zone on a two-one-one play with Ryan Walter and, using his left winger as a decoy, forced Leafs defenceman Chris Kotsopoulos to back in on goaltender Don Edwards.

With Kotsopoulos practically seated in Edwards’ lap, Smith let go a low wrist shop that beat the goalie just inside the post.

Leafs tied the score on Thomas’ sixth goal and fifth in the four games since being recalled from St. Catharines.

But goals by Naslund and Chelios a minute and 12 seconds apart sent the Habs into a two-goal lead.

Leafs lost Edwards shortly after Chelios’ goal when a hard shot by Smith caught him in the side of the chest where he had suffered a separated rib two weeks ago.

Edwards was replaced at the beginning of the second period by Ken Wregget, who had been called up from St. Catharines after Tom Bernhardt was injured last Saturday.

Hodgson cut the Canadiens’ margin to one early in the second period, but another two-goal outburst by Montréal, with Smith and DeBlois beating Wregget, gave the Habs a 5-2 lead.

The teams traded goals early in the third period, with Tremblay getting his sixth goal of the season for Montréal and Stastny his 10th for Toronto.

Leafs captain Rick Vaive made his first start in six games since injuring his hand in a fight with the Detroit Red Wings’ John Barrett on November 23.

While he checked effectively, it was obvious he still had trouble shooting as he had only three weak shots at Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy.

The rookie Montréal netminder made several difficult saves, particularly on Stastny, Frycer and back-to-back stops on Gary Leeman and Greg Terrion.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, December 8, 1985

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 03:23 – Smith (Green, Dahlin)
MTL PEN – 05:35 – Svoboda, trpping
TOR GOAL – 09:23 – Thomas (Smith, Fergus)
MTL GOAL – 14:28 – Naslund (Chelios)
MTL GOAL – 15:37 – Chelios (Smith, Walter)

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 00:38 – Vaive, holding
TOR GOAL – 04:17 – Hodgson (Frycer)
MTL GOAL – 07:47 – Smith (Dahlin)
TOR PEN – 08:37 – McGill, hooking
MTL GOAL – 10:41 – DeBlois (Naslund, Smith)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 06:27 – Tremblay (Naslund, Robinson)
TOR GOAL – 08:07 – Stastny (Terrion, Benning)
TOR PEN – 09:38 – Fergus, hooking
MTL PEN – 12:57 – Carbonneau, tripping

MTL – Roy (W, 21-24)
TOR – Edwards (7-10), Wregget (L, 17-20)

MTL – 10+6+14 = 30
TOR – 8+7+9 = 24

MTLGoaltenders: Patrick Roy. Defence: Chris Chelios, Rick Green, Tom Kurvers, Mike Lalor, Larry Robinson (A), Petr Svoboda. Forwards: Guy Carbonneau, Kjell Dahlin, Lucien DeBlois, Bob Gainey (C), John Kordic, Mike McPhee, Mats Naslund, Chris Nilan, Brian Skrudland, Bobby Smith, Mario Tremblay (A), Ryan Walter.
TORGoaltenders: Don Edwards, Ken Wregget. Defence: Jim Benning, Al Iafrate, Chris Kotsopoulos, Bob McGill, Gary Nylund, Blake Wesley. Forwards: Jeff Brubaker, Russ Courtnall, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus (A), Miroslav Frycer, Dan Hodgson, Gary Leeman, Brad Smith, Marian Stastny, Greg Terrion, Steve Thomas, Rick Vaive (C).

MTL – 13-10-3 (.558)
TOR – 7-16-3 (.327)