Game 620 – Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 1

Game 620
Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 1
Wednesday, December 12, 1990
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

A little passion returned to Maple Leaf Gardens last night.

The occasion was a glimpse of a once-great rivalry that has gone the way of several other national institutions, a victim of greed, short-sightedness and an unhealthy preoccupation with the bottom line.

At one time, Toronto Maple Leaf fans could count on a chance to vilify the Montréal Canadiens as much as seven times a year at the Gardens. That was before the late Harold Ballard sold them out at the start of the 1981-82 season and moved the Leafs from the Adams Division and into the Norris.

For Ballard, the master of the mediocre, the motive was simple: by moving to the Norris, a much weaker division than the Adams, the Leafs would find it much easier to make the National Hockey League playoffs. And that meant more cash. Cash from the bigger playoff gates.

True to form though, Ballard’s Leafs finished fifth and out of the playoffs in the Norris after their first season, exactly where they finished the previous year in the Adams. The ensuing years haven’t brought much change, the Leafs remaining mediocre by and large.

The big losers, as is the case when institutions are chopped to death, have been the customers. Now, the most the fans at the Gardens see the Canadiens is twice per season.

Last night was one of those occasions and it brought an air of excitement seldom seen at Church and Carlton. It’s just too hard to get worked up over the Minnesota North Stars four times a year.

The fans – many of them cheering for Les Habitants – were rewarded with one of the best games of what has been a dreary season. The big bonus, of course, was the Leafs’ 4-1 win, perhaps their best victory of the season.

The play reflected the heightened excitement in the building. It was a physical affair, especially whenever the Leafs’ Wendel Clark was on the ice.

It was an incident involving him at 19:24 of the second period that ignited tempers on both teams. Clark went into a corner with Denis Savard, who had his stick up. Clark appeared to be struck by the stick, which may have been raised in self-defence.

Then Clark decked Savard with a punch to the back of the head and then cross-checked him while he lay on the ice. Next, Clark punched Sylvain Lefebvre and Andrel Cassels in succession.

Clark escaped with minors for cross-checking and roughing, which angered Habs’ coach Pat Burns, who exchanged curses with Leafs’ assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

On the hockey side, the Leafs were impressive in sticking to their hard-working defensive play through the tight affair. Peter Ing was solid in goal whenever the Habs broke through.

And this time the Leafs were rewarded with some goals, two quick ones in the third period by Daniel Marois and Paul Fenton sealing the win.

“I think it may have been an exciting game because a lot of the fans were really into it,” Leaf coach Tom Watt said. “For the last four weeks we’ve been playing as tight and as hard as we did tonight. It’s nice to be rewarded for it.”

As for the renewal of the rivalry, Watt shrugged it aside. “That may be, you’d have to ask the players. As a coach, you like to think the players work hard every night.”

NOTE: The Leafs and Ukrainian defenceman Alexander Godynuik have agreed to contract terms but nothing has been signed yet. Leaf general manager Floyd Smith met with Alexander Bogdanov, coach of Sokol Kiev, Godynuik’s Soviet club team, last night in Buffalo in hopes of negotiating the player’s release. Once that is secured, the NHL contract can be signed.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 13, 1990

1st Period
TOR PEN – 01:40 – Iafrate, hooking
MTL PEN – 02:12 – Chorske, tripping
MTL GOAL – 05:37 – Keane (Svoboda, Lebeau)
TOR PEN – 11:00 – Iafrate, hooking
MTL PEN – 16:44 – Schneider, holding
MTL PEN – 19:29 – Corson, fighting major
TOR PEN – 19:29 – Richardson, fighting major

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 02:10 – Petit (Gill, Millar)
MTL PEN – 08:28 – Skrudland, high sticking
TOR PP GOAL – 10:23 – Damphousse (Iafrate, Petit)
TOR PEN – 19:24 – Clark, roughing / cross checking double minor
MTL PEN – 19:24 – Odelein, misconduct
TOR PEN – 19:24 – Maguire, misconduct

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 10:20 – Maguire, fighting major + misconduct
MTL PEN – 10:20 – Odelein, fighting major + misconduct
TOR GOAL – 16:24 – Marois (Fenton, Damphousse)
TOR GOAL – 17:15 – Fenton (Krushelnyski)
MTL PEN – 17:53 – Chorske, cross checking + fighting major
TOR PEN – 17:53 – Gill, fighting major

TOR – Ing (W, 28-29)
MTL – Roy (L, 14-16), Bergeron (10-12)

TOR – 8+11+9 = 28
MTL – 12+8+9 = 29

TORGoaltenders: Peter Ing. Defence: Dave Ellett, Todd Gill, Al Iafrate, Michel Petit, Rob Ramage (C), Luke Richardson. Forwards: Aaron Broten, Wendel Clark (A), Vincent Damphousse, Lucien DeBlois, Paul Fenton, Lou Franceschetti, Dave Hannan, Mike Krushelnyski, Kevin Maguire, Daniel Marois, Mike Millar, Joe Sacco.
MTLGoaltenders: Jean-Claude Bergeron, Patrick Roy. Defence: J.J. Daigneault, Éric Desjardins, Sylvain Lefebvre, Lyle Odelein, Mathieu Schneider, Petr Svoboda. Forwards: Benoît Brunet, Guy Carbonneau (C), Andrew Cassels, Tom Chorske, Shayne Corson, Russ Courtnall, Mike Keane, Stéphan Lebeau, Mark Pederson, Stéphane Richer, Denis Savard, Brian Skrudland (A).

TOR – 8-24-1 (.258)
MTL – 16-14-3 (.530)