Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Saturday, January 14, 1989
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, ON
Invariably, the judgment will be that finesse won over muscle.
Russ Courtnall 2, John Kordic 0.
But Kordic scoffed at the notion that the November 7 trade that brought him to the Leafs from the Canadiens for Courtnall has been proven a disaster because of last night’s 5-3 Montréal victory in an electrifying game before a sellout crowd of 16,382 at the Gardens.
Courtnall, the slick but non-aggressive centre-turned-right-winger, scored two goals, including the winner, in his first game against his teammates of four seasons.
Kordic, who was playing in his first game after sitting out a 12-game suspension, was all but invisible despite being inserted on left wing on the Leafs’ top line with Ed Olczyk and Gary Leeman.
His presence there was baffling in that converted defenceman Todd Gill had played well in two games with Olczyk and Leeman.
However, coach George Armstrong reasoned that Kordic’s muscular figure would make his two top gunners even more effective.
“People watch out for John Kordic a lot more and I felt that Leeman and Olczyk would perform even better with him out there with them,” said Armstrong.
It wasn’t evident last night. Leeman picked up an assist, but Olczyk was held pointless.
For his part, Kordic saw 10 minutes and 33 seconds of ice time and managed two shots on net, but neither proved difficult to handle for Canadiens goalie Brian Hayward.
The only other time his name appeared on the game sheet was for a two-minute slashing penalty against Mats Naslund.
He was benched late in the third period in favour of Dave Reid.
Ironically, the tough Edmonton native was temporarily knocked out of the game just 10 seconds into his first shift when he was hit on the nose by a Guy Carbonneau high stick.
“I got 10 games for that,” he said, referring to the extra 10 games he received along with an automatic two-game suspension for breaking the nose of Edmonton Oilers’ Keith Acton with his stick.
Kordic admits that in a comparison with Courtnall on pure hockey skills he’s going to come out a loser.
“He’s a lot better hockey player than I am,” he said. “I’ll admit that.
“He’s a goal scorer and I’m not. He’ll get more goals than me, but I’ll beat up on more people.”
Kordic feels it’s ludicrous for fans to compare him to Courtnall.
“People who do that aren’t very good hockey fans,” he said. “How many years was Courtnall here? Four? Five? In that time the Leafs never won anything.
“They had to change something. People have to understand that.”
In the Canadiens’ dressing room, Courntall was still beaming over his two-goal peformance which earned him the game’s first star.
“I wasn’t trying to prove anything,” he said. “I don’t think I have to. I just wanted to have a good game.
“I didn’t circle the calendar or anything because I wasn’t out for vengeance or anything like that. I had more important things to worry about. It wasn’t like I was waiting for January 14 to come along.”
Courtnall agreed with Kordic that trying to compare the two was a “bad comparison.”
“John does what he does best and I do what I do,” said Courtnall. “They got him for a certain reason and that’s what he does.”
Courtnall, who was the Leafs’ first pick in the 1983 entry draft, broke up a 1-1 tie with just six seconds remaining in the opening period.
The Leafs were totally dominated by the Habs over the first 20 minutes, being outshot 14-5, but still managed to be only one goal down.
To their credit they turned the tables on the visitors in the second period, outshooting the Habs 14-7.
However, they still trailed 3-2 going into the final period.
Courtnall notched what proved to be the winner seven minutes into the period when he circled the Toronto net and banked a shot in off goalie Allan Bester.
The Leafs cut the margin to 4-3 when Tom Fergus scored his second goal of the game with less than four minutes left on the clock.
Armstrong pulled Bester with just over a minute left in the game, but Ryan Walter settled the issue when he slid the puck into the open net.
Al Iafrate, who played a strong game on the Leaf defence, had the other Toronto goal, while Mike McPhee and Shayne Corson also scored for Montréal.
Story originally published in The Toronto Star, January 15, 1989
MTL GOAL – 00:51 – McPhee (Lemieux, Chelios)
TOR GOAL – 09:20 – Fergus (Lanz, Gill)
MTL GOAL – 19:54 – Courtnall (Smith, Naslund)
TOR GOAL – 07:51 – Iafrate (Leeman)
TOR PEN – 08:39 – Gill, holding
MTL PP GOAL – 10:23 – Corson (Richer, Svoboda)
TOR PEN – 13:23 – Kordic, slashing
MTL PEN – 05:07 – Lalor, interference
TOR PEN – 05:36 – Leeman, hooking
MTL PP GOAL – 07:26 – Courtnall (Ludwig, Naslund)
TOR GOAL – 16:22 – Fergus (Laughlin, Salming)
MTL EN GOAL – 19:51 – Walter (Corson)
MTL – Hayward (W, 26-29)
TOR – Bester (L, 23-27)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 14+7+7 = 28
TOR – 5+14+10 = 29
MTL – Goaltenders: Brian Hayward. Defence: Chris Chelios, Rick Green, Mike Lalor, Craig Ludwig, Larry Robinson, Petr Svoboda. Forwards: Guy Carbonneau, Shayne Corson, Russ Courtnall, Brent Gilchrist, Mike Keane, Claude Lemieux, Steve Martinson, Mike McPhee, Mats Naslund, Stéphane Richer, Bobby Smith, Ryan Walter.
TOR – Goaltenders: Allan Bester. Defence: Todd Gill, Al Iafrate, Chris Kotsopoulos, Rick Lanz, Brad Marsh, Luke Richardson, Borje Salming. Forwards: Mike Blaisdell, Vincent Damphousse, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus, John Kordic, Craig Laughlin, Gary Leeman, Daniel Marois, Ed Olczyk, Dave Reid, Al Secord.