Game 635 – Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

Game 635
Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0
Saturday, February 28, 1998
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Maple Leafs gave their fans a glimpse of the future last week. And it was a tantalizing glimpse indeed.

It’s too soon to refer to the long-term prospects of the team as anything other than cloudy. But the prospects are bright for better entertainment when the Leafs move to the National Hockey League’s Northeast Division next season.

Of the three games the Leafs played last week, two of them represented excellent entertainment. Leaf fans had better hope that it was no coincidence that both of those games came against future division rivals, the Buffalo Sabres and the Montréal Canadiens.

Only an important playoff game produces the same type of atmosphere as a visit to Maple Leaf Gardens by the Canadiens. The building’s atmosphere was changed shortly before the opening faceoff, when the Maple Leafs paid homage to two of their greats, Charlie Conacher and George Armstrong, by lifting banners with their numbers to the ceiling. The fans stayed enthused right to the end of Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Canadiens, jumping up for a standing ovation as Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” played over the sound system.

“These are the games everybody wants to see,” said Leaf forward Derek King. “You could see the excitement in the guys on the bench. Everybody was jumping up and down.”

“I wish every game was against Montréal, especially the way we played tonight. You could see this was special in the guys’ faces before the game.”

While it came as no surprise that the Leafs were emotionally charged on Saturday night, it’s also encouraging that they were almost as intense in last Wednesday’s 2-2 tie with the Sabres.

There was a little less enthusiasm for the storied Montréal-Toronto rivalry in the Canadiens’ dressing room. Then again, the loss was the Canadiens’ fourth in succession, and the wolves are circling.

“Our confidence is very low right now,” said Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault, whose forwards ran into one hot goaltender in Toronto’s Félix Potvin and whose defencemen as well as forwards need to work on playing in their own end.

“But I hope we can see more of these games,” Vigneault said. “Sure, the score was 4-0 but it was a hard-fought game. Both teams worked hard, and Potvin put on a great show.”

Potvin himself thought the rivalry itself produced the show. He hopes to see lots more like it in the coming years.

“That was a fun game,” he said. “With the fans behind us, it was a good feeling.”

“It will be fun next year for sure. I think everybody is enjoying it.”

Canadiens captain Vincent Damphousse has seen this rivalry from both sides of the fence, since he started his NHL career as a Maple Leaf. He didn’t get to see much of it on Saturday, as a mild concussion sustained in the first period forced him from the game after the second.

“You can throw the teams’ records away when we play,” he said. “I remember (as a Maple Leaf), we had bad records but we were always up for Montréal.”

“You feed off your fans. I remember that.”

The next feed Damphousse and the Canadiens will have to worry about is a media feeding frenzy. What most observers knew was coming – the first breakdown in Vigneault’s honeymoon season as coach – has arrived.

Losing to the 20-30-8 Leafs will constitute a full-blown crisis for the 28-23-7 Canadiens, given the length of their losing streak. Much of the problem is an old one, the play of the defence, although the speedy Canadiens were also losing the race to the puck too often.

“We’re just continuing to play the way we did before the Olympics,” Damphousse said. “We’re sliding at home (with five consecutive losses).”

“We’re allowing more and more goals. And it seems we’re not getting to the puck first. That’s not too good when it’s one of your best assets.”

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 2, 1998

1st Period
TOR PEN – 02:29 – Korolev, interference
MTL PEN – 07:35 – Bordeleau, hooking
MTL PEN – 10:56 – Damphousse, roughing
TOR PEN – 13:23 – Macoun, holding
TOR PEN – 13:23 – Brown, unsportsmanlike conduct
MTL PEN – 15:56 – Zalapski, interference

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:43 – Brunet, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 02:12 – Modin (Schneider, D. King)
MTL PEN – 10:28 – Rivet, interference
TOR PEN – 12:40 – Yushkevich, roughing
MTL PEN – 16:20 – Bordeleau, delay of game
TOR PEN – 18:37 – Markov, roughing
MTL PEN – 18:37 – Thornton, roughing

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 04:10 – Berezin (Modin)
MTL PEN – 07:11 – Manson, roughing
TOR GOAL – 10:07 – Warriner (Domi, Korolev)
TOR PEN – 13:44 – Brown, tripping
MTL PEN – 16:43 – Vukota, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 17:28 – Sullivan (Brown, Modin)

TOR – Potvin (W + SO, 26-26)
MTL – Thibault (L, 24-28)

TOR – 10+9+9 = 28
MTL – 9+13+4 = 26

TORGoaltenders: Glenn Healy, Félix Potvin. Defence: Jeff Brown, Jamie Macoun (A), Danny Markov, Mathieu Schneider, Jason Smith, Dmitri Yushkevich. Forwards: Sergei Berezin, Tie Domi, Darby Hendrickson, Mike Johnson, Derek King, Kris King, Igor Korolev, Fredrik Modin, Martin Prochazka, Steve Sullivan, Mats Sundin (C), Todd Warriner.
MTLGoaltenders: Andy Moog, Jocelyn Thibault. Defence: Patrice Brisebois, Dave Manson, Peter Popovic, Stéphane Quintal (A), Craig Rivet, Zarley Zalapski. Forwards: Sébastien Bordeleau, Benoît Brunet, Vincent Damphousse (C), Jonas Hoglund, Saku Koivu, Patrick Poulin, Mark Recchi (A), Martin Rucinsky, Brian Savage, Turner Stevenson, Scott Thornton, Mick Vukota.

TOR – 20-30-8 (.414)
MTL – 28-23-7 (.543)


Félix Potvin (TOR)
⭐⭐ Fredrik Modin (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Steve Sullivan (TOR)