Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1
Saturday, February 22, 1997
Centre Molson, Montréal, Québec
A revival of the over-hyped NHL “rivalry,” between the Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens not only would be good hockey, it would be good business.
Several hotel lobbies for the weekend and a sizeable number of seats among the sold-out house of 21,273 at the Molson Centre were filled with Leafs supporters. Many took advantage of excursion packages advertised heavily in Ontario since early last autumn.
Obviously, having the clubs in the same division in any expansion-inspired realignment would be a smart, lucrative move.
The Leafs responded to the hefty vocal support with one of their best efforts of the season in claiming a 5-1 victory that, at least, accomplishes one small feat. The team no longer is absolutely last in the NHL’s overall standings.
They did it wearing replicas of early Maple Leafs sweaters, the ones with an assortment of white bands on the sleeves, used this season in November on the 65th anniversary of the opening of Maple Leaf Gardens. That night the Leafs played perhaps their best game of the schedule, beating the Detroit Red Wings, 6-2.
Last evening, the often slow-starting Leafs opened quickly. A little luck followed them to the Canadiens’ goalmouth for a 3-0 first-period lead.
For once, the Leafs did not fold when they had a bulge. Instead, they built on the margin with some solid two-way hockey, backed by the strong work of goalie Félix Potvin, working before a large crowd of family and friends in his home town.
The Canadiens had the only goal of the second period which sent it to the third on slightly shaky ground for the visitors. But the Leafs, not the Canadiens, scored the next goal and that was it. The Leafs stated their authority on this one night, anyway, by outshooting the Canadiens, 17-5, in the third period.
Wendel Clark counted twice for the Leafs in the third while Darby Hendrickson, Mats Sundin and Kirk Muller scored the first-period goals.
Defenceman David Wilkie had the Canadiens’ goal.
“Our guys deserved that because they played hard and outplayed the Canadiens in their rink,” said Leafs coach Mike Murphy, who had the chance to enjoy a strong effort in a season with few of that variety.
“I guess we found a place where we could play. We haven’t had many nights when we could smile and it is one of the few moments when maybe we gave our fans some real pleasure.”
The players admitted that facing the Canadiens revved their engines and the number of supporters they had in the seats helped keep their feet on the accelerators.
They delivered the calibre of play that, puzzlingly, has been seen too seldom in a season of disaster.
“For once, we started strong, finished well and had no big lags in between,” Clark said. “It likely was our best first period of the season and, even better, we were able to maintain that.
“We played consistent hockey for 60 minutes and if we can learn from that, we can build on it for the rest of the season.”
The leisure of the evening for those in blue and white simply was in not having to explain another collapse, another lack of effort, another defeat.
“It’s the chance to feel good about ourselves for once,” said defenceman Dave Ellett. “The rivalry is still there even if the teams are not fighting for first overall and having the fans into it for both teams so strong made it a special atmosphere.
“No matter what happens for the rest of the season, this game is something we can remember and get a good feeling from.”
The Leafs, who earned two wins and a tie in their six-game road trip, now go home for seven consecutive games.
Story originally published in The Toronto Star, February 23, 1997
MTL PEN – 00:51 – Stevenson, hooking
TOR PEN – 00:51 – Domi, roughing
MTL PEN – 00:51 – Baron, roughing
TOR GOAL – 07:55 – Hendrickson (Craig, Kypreos)
MTL PEN – 08:25 – Malakhov, high sticking
TOR PEN – 10:43 – Muller, holding
TOR GOAL – 13:35 – Sundin (Ellett, Warriner)
MTL PEN – 14:41 – Malakhov, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 16:24 – Muller (Gilmour, Murphy)
TOR PEN – 16:48 – Craig, interference
TOR PEN – 01:08 – Ellett, hooking
MTL PP GOAL – 02:39 – Wilkie (Damphouse, Cullimore)
MTL PEN – 02:39 – Rucinsky, roughing
MTL PEN – 05:41 – Wilkie, tripping
TOR PEN – 13:51 – Sundin, holding
TOR GOAL – 03:21 – Clark (Domi)
TOR GOAL – 14:01 – Clark (Ellett, Domi)
MTL PEN – 15:02 – Wilkie, cross checking
TOR PEN – 19:23 – Warriner, high sticking
MTL PEN – 19:23 – Malakhov, cross checking
TOR – Potvin (W, 22-23)
MTL – Théodore (L, 28-33)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 9+7+17 = 33
MTL – 9+9+5 = 23
TOR – Goaltenders: Félix Potvin. Defence: Dave Ellett, Jamie Macoun, Larry Murphy, Craig Wolanin, Dmitri Yushkevich, Rob Zettler. Forwards: Sergei Berezin, Wendel Clark (A), Mike Craig, Tie Domi, Doug Gilmour (C), Darby Hendrickson, Nick Kypreos, Fredrik Modin, Kirk Muller, Zdenek Nedved, Mats Sundin (A), Todd Warriner.
MTL – Goaltenders: José Théodore. Defence: Murray Baron, Jassen Cullimore, François Groleau, Vladimir Malakhov, Craig Rivet, David Wilkie. Forwards: Sébastien Bordeleau, Valeri Bure, Shayne Corson, Vincent Damphousse (C), Saku Koivu, Chris Murray, Mark Recchi (A), Martin Rucinsky, Brian Savage, Turner Stevenson, Scott Thornton, Darcy Tucker.
⭐ Kirk Muller (TOR)
⭐⭐ Wendel Clark (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Mats Sundin (TOR)