Game 610 – Canadiens 9, Maple Leafs 4

Game 610
Canadiens 9, Maple Leafs 4
Saturday, March 21, 1987
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Hunger is apparently not a problem that gnaws at the stomachs of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Defenceman Bill Root unintentionally touched on that note last night in praising the Montréal Canadiens, who blasted the Leafs 9-4 before 18,072 spectators at the Forum.

Root noted that the Canadiens seemed hungry for goals as they stormed the Leafs in the second period of their National Hockey League game to wipe out a 4-1 deficit.

“I don’t think it was a matter of us letting down,” he said. “They took advantage of our mistakes and when they got the chances they made them count. When they go to the net they smell goals.”

The Leafs don’t seem to possess that same hunger.

Perhaps, affected by the fat cat attitude that filters down from the top levels of an organization that has known nothing but sellout crowds despite two decades of miserable hockey, the Leafs seem incapable of displaying a gung-ho, go-for-broke approach to their work through 60 minutes.

In two previous games last week the Leafs came out stagnant despite knowing that their playoff hopes hung by a rapidly fraying rope.

The result was losses to the Chicago Blackhawks and Québec Nordiques in games they could easily have won.

Last night, the Leafs came up with a surprise. They came out skating and hitting and took a comfortable 4-1 lead early in the second period.

Perhaps it was too comfortable.

The Leafs rolled over like cats stretching out in the sun after a full meal. That’s when the Habs came in for the kill.

They scored four goals in three minutes and 17 seconds to erase the Leafs’ lead and move in front 5-4.

They never looked back.

The Habs scored once more before the second period ended to take a 6-4 lead into the third period, when they added three more late goals.

Ryan Walter and Shayne Corson led the Habs with a pair of goals each, while Larry Robinson, Stéphane Richer, Bobby Smith, Mats Naslund and Kjell Dahlin had one apiece.

Mark Osborne scored twice for Leafs; Vincent Damphousse and Gary Leeman had singles.

Smith, who was named the game’s first star, agreed with Root’s assessment of the Habs’ attitude.

“We started playing physical and going for the net in the second period,” said the lanky centre. “We’ve been practising it, working at it. That’s the type of hockey you’ve got to play in the playoffs.

“You’ve got to be ready to crash the net because you’re not going to get many two-on-one and three-on-two breaks in the playoffs. You’ve got to get in front and let the puck bounce in off your sticks or your body. You have to take them any way to can.”

The Leafs aren’t going to have to worry about practising playoff hockey. Their chances of post-season action are fading rapidly.

Despite the fact the fourth-place Minnesota North Stars are trying their best to hand them an invitation to the playoff ball, the Leafs refuse to accept the offer.

So, while the North Stars lost last night 5-1 to the Hartford Whalers, their magic number for eliminating the Leafs dropped to five.

Any combination of Minnesota wins and Leaf losses totalling five will end Toronto’s playoff hopes.

“I don’t understand it,” said defenceman Leeman. “Each of these games is important. Why we don’t realize that I don’t know.”

Leeman, who has played well since being moved back to defence from right wing, suggested Leafs might have had too many scoreboard watchers.

“Maybe we saw that they (North Stars) were losing and felt we could ease up,” he said. “But it doesn’t work that way.

“As long as they keep losing, I suppose we have a chance. But we have to take advantage of their losses. We can’t sit back and expect them to lose them all.”

Leafs play the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday, then have a showdown with the North Stars on Wednesday at the Gardens.

The North Stars, however, have another chance to move further away from the Leafs tomorrow night, when they take on the Blues in St. Louis.

NOTES: Leafs called up right winger Derek Laxdal, their eighth-round pick in the 1984 draft, from Newmarket of the American League. He replaced the injured (shoulder) Mike Allison…Defenceman Borje Salming missed his second consecutive game suffering from a sinus infection.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, March 22, 1987

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 07:09 – Leeman (P. Ihnacak, M. Ihnacak)
MTL PEN – 08:10 – McPhee, cross checking
MTL PEN – 09:00 – Chelios, elbowing
TOR PP2 GOAL – 09:28 – Osborne (Clark, Fergus)
TOR PEN – 10:35 – Courtnall, high sticking
TOR GOAL – 13:43 – Osborne (P. Ihnacak, Clark)
MTL GOAL – 15:00 – Walter (Carbonneau)

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 03:11 – Clark, fighting major
MTL PEN – 03:11 – Kordic, fighting major
TOR GOAL – 04:15 – Damphousse (Osborne, Root)
TOR PEN – 05:00 – Leeman, roughing
MTL PEN – 05:00 – Chelios, roughing
TOR PEN – 06:46 – Daoust, high sticking
MTL PEN – 06:46 – Lalor, interference
TOR PEN – 08:37 – Fergus, slashing
MTL PP GOAL – 09:24 – Robinson (Smith, Corson)
MTL GOAL – 11:19 – Smith (Lemieux, Ludwig)
MTL GOAL – 11:36 – Walter (Carbonneau)
MTL GOAL – 12:41 – Corson (Smith)
MTL GOAL – 17:52 – Corson (Robinson, Smith)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 01:35 – Nilan, slashing
TOR PEN – 04:09 – Fergus, slashing
MTL PEN – 04:09 – Corson, slashing
MTL PEN – 09:57 – Nilan, elbowing
MTL GOAL – 14:11 – Richer (Naslund, Hayward)
MTL GOAL – 16:45 – Naslund (Ludwig, McPhee)
MTL GOAL – 19:32 – Dahlin (Smith, Kordic)

MTL – Hayward (W, 24-28)
TOR – Bester (L, 23-32)

MTL – 8+14+10 = 32
TOR – 10+6+12 = 28

MTLGoaltenders: Brian Hayward. Defence: Chris Chelios, Gaston Gingras, Rick Green, Mike Lalor, Craig Ludwig, Larry Robinson (A). Forwards: Guy Carbonneau, Shayne Corson, Kjell Dahlin, John Kordic, Claude Lemieux, Mike McPhee, Mats Naslund (A), Chris Nilan, Stéphane Richer, Brian Skrudland, Bobby Smith, Ryan Walter.
TORGoaltenders: Allan Bester. Defence: Todd Gill, Al Iafrate, Rick Lanz, Bob McGill, Bill Root. Forwards: Wendel Clark (A), Russ Courtnall, Vincent Damphousse, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus, Miroslav Ihnacak, Peter Ihnacak, Derek Laxdal, Gary Leeman, Mark Osborne, Greg Terrion, Steve Thomas, Rick Vaive.

MTL – 35-29-10 (.541)
TOR – 28-39-6 (.425)