Preseason Game 37 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1

Preseason Game 37
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1
Saturday, September 26, 1998
Centre Molson, Montréal, Québec

Mats Sundin will have to get plenty of sleep at night, judging by how much work he’s going to do carrying the Leafs’ offence.

But the club may have stumbled on to something. Its search for a second line centre took a right hand turn at training camp when it was decided to audition Igor Korolev in that spot.

And last night Korolev made the most of the opportunity, chalking up two assists in a 2-1 win over the Fredericton, er, the Montréal Canadiens. The win bumped the Leafs’ exhibition record to 4-0-1.

The good news is Korolev exhibited some nifty playmaking skills that Ladislav Kohn and Sergei Berezin converted into goals. Of course, those passes were feathered through a defence corps that featured such household names as Konstantin Sidulov and Francis Bouillon.

But two assists is nothing to scoff at, even in the exhibition schedule. The Leafs desperately need someone to take pressure off the overworked Sundin. If Korolev, who has been claimed in a waiver draft and signed as a free agent with the Leafs last season, can do that, all the better.

But all in all, the Leafs’ foot soldiers and hopefuls gave little indication they’re going to turn the team into an offensive juggernaut. Although Garry Valk had some jump, he could have helped his own cause with some production against a team made up largely of American Hockey League players. Niklas Andersson, another veteran vying for employment, exhibited some excellent skating skills and hit the holes for some quality chances, but didn’t show he could finish at the big league level.

An interesting subplot to the game surrounded goalie Félix Potvin. Potvin, who has actually outplayed Curtis Joseph so far, looked impressive against the Canadiens, stopping 23 shots and earning first star honours. He was particularly busy in the third period, when the Canadiens took the play to Toronto and held the fort by stopping 12 shots.

Included in the barrage were a breakaway, several point blank opportunities, and two multiple shot chances.

With 15 seconds remaining, he stopped Patrick Poulin cold by sprawling across the crease.

The teams played a tedious first period in which the Leafs outshot Montréal 9-6 and had the momentum, but the Leafs couldn’t convert any of their chances.

The power play was powerless on four opportunities without generating so much as a single quality opportunity. The Canadiens were two men short twice in the period.

The period did feature one fight between two unlikely combatants, Poulin and Leafs centre prospect Adam Mair. Mair came way from the fight bloodied but unbowed.

Kohn opened the scoring at the 4:27 mark of the second period on a dazzling effort in which he took a feed from Korolev and made Habs tough guy Trent McCleary resemble a highway pylon before firing a wrist shot high above the shoulder of Canadiens goalie José Théodore.

The Leafs squandered another 5-on-3 power play in the second period.

Neither team managed any sustained pressure, even though the official shot count showed the Leafs leading 18-11.

After two periods, the Leafs were on an 0-for-9 streak with the man advantage.

Berezin put the Leafs in front by two with a goal at 2:41 of the third. After taking a feed from Korolev, Berezin shot through a screen provided by Valk that beat Théodore.

Minor league scoring star Martin Gendron replied for the Canadiens with a goal at 9:51.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, September 27, 1998

1st Period

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 04:07 – Kohn (Korolev, Côté)

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 02:46 – Berezin (Korolev)
MTL GOAL – 09:51 – Gendron (Damphousse, Bashkirov)

TOR – Potvin (W, 22-23)
MTL – Théodore (L, 24-26)

TOR – 9+9+8 = 26
MTL – 6+5+12 = 23