Game 612 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1

Game 612
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
Monday, November 9, 1987
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Imagine, if you can, Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard smiling after a loss.

Believe it, sports fans, it happened here last night after H.B.’s Leafs dropped a 3-1 decision to the Montréal Canadiens.

“That was one helluva hockey game,” he said while sitting in his team’s dressing room.

“That was the best hockey game anyone has seen since the Canada Cup.”

Why the smiles, then?

“If we can play at this level, we’ll go a long way this season,” he said.

He’s absolutely right.

This was vintage Toronto vs. Montréal. Up and down; no goon garbage. Let’s get it on. The way the game was meant to be played.

What was so impressive, from the Leafs’ point of view, is that they were in an embarrassing situation.

The last time they were here – last March – they were whipped 9-4. And a few weeks ago in Toronto, Les Habs gave them a reminder of that when they left the Gardens with a lopsided 10-3 win.

Even coach John Brophy, who accepts losses the way you’d treat your kid after flunking, couldn’t complain about this effort.

“We were playing the top team in the league so how can I complain?” he said. “If we play like this against Boston (tomorrow) night (at the Gardens) we’ll come away with two points.

“We worked our butts off,” he continued. “We had a lot of chances to win this game. I can’t say anything about the effort our guys put into this game.

“We took it to them. I don’t accept losses but I certainly accept the effort our guys put out tonight.”

The Leafs applied a lot of pressure early in the first period and Montréal goaltender Brian Hayward came up big on shots by Al Iafrate, Russ Courtnall and Gary Leeman before Peter Ihnacak scored on a backhander midway through the first period.

The Canadiens, aggressive and persistent as always, weren’t frustrated by that goal and before the period ended, Claude Lemieux and Stéphane Richer – the latter on a power play – scored to leave the Canadiens ahead 2-1 after 20 minutes.

The second period was goalless, despite the Leafs having two power-play opportunities and the Canadiens one.

Midway through the third period, Chris Nilan scored the goal that buried any Leaf chances for victory.

But it didn’t stop the entertainment as the teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the period.

“That was the hardest skating game I’ve been involved in this season,” said Al Secord. “I felt I was doing backchecking drills for the entire game.

“The Canadiens are so great offensively; they execute so well. But we had our chances and couldn’t cash in.”

It was the second consecutive loss for the Leafs after running up a five-game winning streak. The St. Louis Blues broke Toronto’s streak Saturday night at the Gardens.

The Canandiens, meanwhile, extended their unbeaten streak to seven games. That left them with a 10-4-3 record, the first team to achieve 10 victories this season.

The loss dropped the Leafs’ record to 8-6-0, good enough to keep them in first place in the Norris Division. But they’re not in a healthy situation there. Detroit and Chicago are only two points behind while Minnesota trails by three.

“We’ll be able to stay above .500 with efforts like this,” said Brophy. “And a team above .500 can win our division.”

No one could have been happier with his performance than goaltender Ken Wregget.

He started in goal in that 10-3 loss and was replaced by Allan Bester after the Canadiens pulled ahead 4-1 in the second period.

He was excellent last night, facing 35 shots, compared with the 26 Leafs fired at Hayward.

“No one can fault Wregget for this loss,” Brophy said.

“He played well and the Canadiens came away with a tough two points.”

Defenceman Chris Kotsopoulos marvelled at the Canadiens’ ability to smother the Leafs.

“They play their positions so well that it’s hard to come up with good scoring chances against them,” he said.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, November 10, 1987

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 10:28 – Ihnacak (Kotsopoulos)
MTL GOAL – 11:43 – Lemieux (Naslund, Green)
TOR PEN – 16:19 – DeGray, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 17:39 – Richer (Smith, Chelios)
TOR PEN – 20:00 – Clark, slashing
MTL PEN – 20:00 – Carbonneau, slashing

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 09:36 – Gainey, high sticking
MTL PEN – 12:38 – Green, hooking
TOR PEN – 16:33 – Leeman, slashing

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 09:53 – Nilan (Chelios, Svoboda)

MTL – Hayward (W, 25-26)
TOR – Wregget (L, 32-35)

MTL – 10+10+15 = 35
TOR – 10+9+7 = 26

MTLGoaltenders: Brian Hayward. Defence: Chris Chelios, Rick Green, Mike Lalor, Craig Ludwig, Petr Svoboda. Forwards: Guy Carbonneau, Shayne Corson, Kjell Dahlin, Bob Gainey (C), John Kordic, Claude Lemieux, Mike McPhee, Sergio Momesso, Mats Naslund (A), Chris Nilan, Stéphane Richer, Brian Skrudland, Bobby Smith.
TORGoaltenders: Ken Wregget. Defence: Dale DeGray, Al Iafrate, Chris Kotsopoulos, Rick Lanz, Luke Richardson, Borje Salming (A). Forwards: Wendel Clark (A), Russ Courtnall, Vincent Damphousse, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus, Miroslav Frycer, Peter Ihnacak, Gary Leeman, Ed Olczyk, Mark Osborne, Al Secord, Dave Semenko.

MTL – 10-4-3 (.676)
TOR – 8-6-0 (.571)