Game 637 – Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1

Game 637
Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1
Saturday, December 26, 1998
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, ON

Stéphane Quintal ensured the Montréal Canadiens’ final game at Maple Leaf Gardens last night was not a low point for the franchise.

Quintal scored at the 15:02 mark of the third period – his first goal in 11 months – to give the Canadiens a well-deserved 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs in the last game at the Gardens between the NHL’s most storied clubs.

More importantly, the win prevented the Canadiens from matching their longest winless streak in team history. Had the Habs lost or tied, they would have been winless in 12 games, matching a string that was established in 1925-26 and equalled in 1935-36.

Quintal’s goal provided redemption for the Canadiens, who outworked and outhustled the Maple Leafs and took advantage of some very haphazard defensive play by the local squad.

The Canadiens had two goals called back by video replay, one of which looked legitimate.

With the Leafs pressing in the third, centre Mats Sundin fired the puck wide, then threw it back to the point, where Leafs defenceman Jason Smith had fallen. That created an odd-man rush with Saku Koivu dishing off to Quintal for the winner.

“In the end maybe they wanted it a little more than we did,” said Sundin, who had an assist but missed several other great chances. “The first thing you learn to do is hit the net when you’re shooting and I didn’t do that.”

Eric Weinrich also scored for the Habs and Steve Thomas replied for the Leafs. Both goals came with the game barely three minutes old. When the Canadiens first visited Maple Leaf Gardens on November 14, 1931, they boasted the likes of hall of famers George Hainsworth in goal, Sylvio Mantha on defence and Howie Morenz and Aurèle Joliat up front. For their last visit to the Gardens they showed up with the likes of Jeff Hackett in goal, Brett Clark on defence and Turner Stevenson and Matt Higgins at forward.

To make matters worse, the Canadiens were 0-6-5 in their past 11 games. They were holding down second-last place in the Eastern Conference, were 10 games under .500 and had scored more than two goals just once during their skid.

The Leafs outshot the Canadiens 30-27 and Hackett was brilliant, unlike the last time he faced Sundin and the Leafs. When Hackett was still with the Blackhawks, Sundin notched a hat trick in a 10-3 win November 12. Things hadn’t gone much better for Hackett with the struggling Habs.

“Thank God this one is over,” Hackett said. “No matter what people think, we’ve been playing well and not winning, and when you don’t win life is miserable. A lot of guys had a miserable Christmas, that’s for sure.”

The Canadiens announced earlier in the day they had hired former New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire, and immediately made him cringe when Toronto scored at the 33-second mark on a play in which the Canadiens looked lost defensively.

Fans had barely settled into their seats when Sundin drew two defenders and passed to Thomas for a 15-foot gimme.

The Canadiens responded when Weinrich took advantage of a Steve Sullivan giveaway at the blue line and blasted a shot past Joseph at the 3:04 mark of the first.

Thomas left the game in the first period after receiving a nasty pair of cuts that required about 30 stitches to close.

With Sergei Berezin and Thomas driving hard to the net, they collided with Hackett and Berezin’s skate hit Thomas as he was falling. Thomas was cut over his right eye and above his top lip, but the skate also managed to penetrate his gum. He’s expected to play in Detroit Thursday.

The Canadiens hit two posts before the second period was three minutes old. Mark Recchi shot through a screen and hit the iron at the one-minute mark. A minute later, Quintal shot from the blue line and Joseph kicked the rebound to Martin Rucinsky, who beat a sprawling Joseph and also hit the post.

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


BOXSCORE
1st Period
TOR GOAL – 00:33 – Thomas (Sundin, Modin)
MTL GOAL – 03:04 – Weinrich
MTL PEN – 07:38 – Malakhov, interference
TOR PEN – 08:56 – Johnson, cross checking
MTL PEN – 15:22 – Rucinsky, hooking
MTL PEN – 17:34 – Ulanov, delay of game
TOR PEN – 19:53 – Valk, interference

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 08:48 – Damphousse, holding
TOR PEN – 10:22 – team, too many men on the ice
TOR PEN – 16:11 – Valk, holding
MTL PEN – 18:15 – Stevenson, interference

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 15:02 – Quintal (Koivu)

GOALTENDERS
MTL – Hackett (W, 29-30)
TOR – Joseph (L, 25-27)

SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 16+8+3 = 27
TOR – 9+11+10 = 30

ROSTERS
MTLGoaltenders: Jeff Hackett. Defence: Brett Clark, Vladimir Malakhov, Stéphane Quintal, Craig Rivet, Igor Ulanov, Eric Weinrich. Forwards: Benoît Brunet, Shayne Corson, Vincent Damphousse (C), Jason Dawe, Matt Higgins, Jonas Hoglund, Saku Koivu, Patrick Poulin, Mark Recchi, Martin Rucinsky, Turner Stevenson, Sergei Zholtok.
TORGoaltenders: Curtis Joseph. Defence: Sylvain Côté, Dallas Eakins, Tomas Kaberle, Alexander Karpovtsev, Jason Smith, Yannick Tremblay. Forwards: Sergei Berezin, Tie Domi, Darby Hendrickson, Mike Johnson, Derek King, Igor Korolev, Alyn McCauley, Fredrik Modin, Steve Sullivan, Mats Sundin (C), Steve Thomas, Garry Valk.

ATTENDANCE
15,726

THREE STARS
Jeff Hackett (MTL)
⭐⭐ Mats Sundin (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Stéphane Quintal (MTL)