Game 607 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

Game 607
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Saturday, January 25, 1986
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Bobby Smith said it and the words were echoed by several of his Montréal Canadien mates.

“We see the way the Maple Leafs play against us and wonder what they’re doing in 20th place,” Smith said.

A little earlier last evening, Smith had scored the goal – the Leafs maintain he booted it into their net and Smith, himself, wasn’t certain about it – that gave the Canadiens a 3-2 overtime victory over the Leafs in a splendid National Hockey League game before 17,190 spectators at The Forum.

The loss was the sixth consecutive defeat for the Leafs but when a team is down as far as they are, anything looks like up to them and that they battled the NHL’s fourth-best team on even (almost) terms offered encouragement that something can be rescued from another losing season.

Brightest spot for the Leafs was the return to action of veteran defenceman Borje Salming, who had played in only 11 of 46 games this season because of back and throat problems, and his outstanding play.

Just as that other lively 34-year old, the Canadiens’ Larry Robinson, has stabilized a young defence in a remarkable season, the Leafs need the old Swede to bring some order to the defensive zone chaos that has plagued the Toronto club.

Salming did that. Playing his first game since November 6, he was perhaps the best skater on the ice, picked as second star behind Leafs goalie Tim Bernhardt.

Salming took a regular shift, scored the goal that forced overtime and displayed surprising stamina, considering the length of his absence from game-action.

“I won’t have any trouble sleeping tonight and I did get a little tired when I got caught in a spot where a shift got longer than normal,” Salming said. “But it went pretty well and my throat didn’t fill up with junk.

“Now that we’ve got some guys back from injuries and Maxie (veteran defenceman Brad Maxwell) on the way back, we can be a good team. Some of the kids are starting to play well and we can win quite a few games before it’s over.”

“That showed just how very important Borje is to this team,” said Leafs coach Dan Maloney. “He settled everything down for us.”

The Canadiens had an assortment of good words for the Leafs, who had won four of the previous five meetings before last night, all those victories recorded by Bernhardt.

“The Leafs have a good amount of talent and we sometimes wonder how they lose badly to other teams when they play so well against us,” Smith said. “We haven’t been that out-played in the first 10 minutes of a game this season. They could have had a three or four- goal lead.”

The reason the Leafs didn’t come out of that stretch when they had 10 of the first 11 shots on goal with more than Tom Fergus’ score was the work of Canadiens’ rookie goalie Patrick Roy. When the Canadiens gradually gained some control of the match, it was Bernhardt who was the big factor.

Guy Carbonneau tied it for the home side in the second period and Ryan Walter sent the Canadiens ahead at 17:36 of the third. The Leafs lifted Bernhardt for a sixth attacker and after Rick Vaive hit the post, Salming hopped in from the point to dunk the rebound with 51 seconds to go.

The Leafs came as close as possible to the overtime winner when Wendel Clark’s 50-foot slap shot beat Roy but bounced off the post.

“I thought that was in because it went off the inside of the post with no rebound,” Clark said.

Just when it appeared the teams would go through the overtime goalless, the Canadiens produced the surprise winner from a faceoff in the Leaf zone. Mats Naslund circled in the corner with the puck and fed a pass in front that Smith, left uncovered, kicked or shot into the net.

“I think I got my stick on my it when it went ahead off my skate,” Smith said.

“It had to go off his foot because his stick was stuck under my arm, even after the goal was scored,” Bernhardt said.

“He tried to kick it up to his stick but never got the wood on it,” said Leafs captain Rick Vaive.

Maloney had juggled the Leafs forward lines and produced a modestly effective selection. The Russ Courtnall-Clark-Gary Leeman line stayed together, while Vaive played with Dan Hodgson and Greg Terrion and Fergus centred Steve Thomas and Dan Daoust.

“I used a checker, a scorer and playmaker on each line and it seemed to work,” Maloney said. “We’ll keep the lines that way for the next game (Tuesday on Long Island against New York Islanders).”

Leafs’ fourth line, the Czechoslovakian alignment of Peter and Miroslav Ihnacak and Marian Stastny, wasn’t used after the first period.

The win kept the Canadiens a point in front of the Québec Nordiques for first place in the Adams Division, while the loss kept the Leafs four points in front of the Detroit Red Wings for fourth place in the Norris Division.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, January 26, 1986

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 01:59 – Fergus (Salming, Daoust)
TOR PEN – 11:04 – Clark, holding
MTL PEN – 12:22 – team, too many men on the ice
MTL PEN – 18:27 – Lalor, hooking
TOR PEN – 19:04 – Salming, holding

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 06:34 – Carbonneau (Nilan, Gainey)
MTL PEN – 11:56 – Skrudland, tripping
TOR PEN – 18:30 – Gill, slashing
MTL PEN – 18:30 – Skrudland, slashing

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 17:39 – Walter (Ludwig, Skrudland)
TOR GOAL – 19:09 – Salming (Vaive, Thomas)

MTL GOAL – 03:38 – Smith (Naslund, Gingras)

MTL – Roy (W, 28-30)
TOR – Bernhardt (L, 33-36)

MTL – 10+10+11+5 = 36
TOR – 16+7+5+2 = 30

MTLGoaltenders: Patrick Roy. Defence: Gaston Gingras, Tom Kurvers, Mike Lalor, Craig Ludwig, Larry Robinson (A), Petr Svoboda. Forwards: Randy Bucyk, Guy Carbonneau, Kjell Dahlin, Lucien DeBlois, Bob Gainey (C), Mats Naslund, Chris Nilan, Stéphane Richer, Brian Skrudland, Bobby Smith, Mario Tremblay (A), Ryan Walter.
TORGoaltenders: Tim Bernhardt. Defence: Jim Benning, Todd Gill, Al Iafrate, Chris Kotsopoulos, Gary Nylund, Borje Salming (A). Forwards: Wendel Clark, Russ Courtnall, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus (A), Dan Hodgson, Miroslav Ihnacak, Peter Ihnacak, Gary Leeman, Marian Stastny, Greg Terrion, Steve Thomas, Rick Vaive (C).

MTL – 27-17-5 (.602)
TOR – 12-30-5 (.309)