Game 642 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2

Game 642
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2
Saturday, October 23, 1999
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON

Jeff Hackett stood there, reaching as deeply as he could over and over again for that sweet breath everyone needs. Sadly, after a lot of effort, he didn’t quite reach the comfort zone – just as his colleagues haven’t after a series of giant efforts in recent games.

“I’m sore all over…my back…everything,” Hackett said in the moments after this 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs after yet another night of the team reaching as deeply as it can and not quite getting there.

“I guess,” Hackett muttered bitterly, “I’ve got to get seriously hurt before they protect me.”

“They,” on this night, were referees Stephen Walkom and Dan O’Halloran. His reference to “seriously hurt” was a stunning bodycheck he absorbed from Igor Korolev a split second before the Maple Leaf scored the goal that locked up the game 2-2. The Canadiens had taken a 1-0 lead on a spectacular goal by Brian Savage in the first period, and a 2-1 lead on Mike Ribeiro’s first National Hockey League goal only 24 seconds into the second period. Alyn McCauley had tied the game at 1-1 and Sergei Berezin got the winner with fewer than two minutes remaining in the second period.

“I had the puck under my pad,” Hackett said between fighting for gulps of air over the pain he was now feeling. “I’m waiting for the whistle. To me, the ref blows the whistle, but no, the guy (Korolev) gives me a good one in the crease, knocks me off the puck and puts it into the net.”

The goal attracted protests from several Canadiens players and this explanation from the referee: “He told me,” Hackett said, “the puck was loose.”

You can mark this down about the Korolev goal, which locked up the teams for the second time in the game: the league now has gone from last season’s embarrassing “toe-in-the-crease” rule, which called for a review after almost every goal, to something a lot worse. In a few words: there’s nothing wrong with a “no harm, no foul” approach to plays occurring in the crease area, but the only thing missing on this goal was a bludgeon.

Hackett had stopped a Mike Johnson shot, the puck appeared wedged under his pad…here comes Korolev and…whomp! he slammed into the sore Hackett, who probably returned too soon from a bone- jarring collision with Islanders hit-man Steve Webb last Monday. Then, in one motion, Korolev lashed at the puck and well…you know the rest.

All that remained in this game to leave this bunch with a third consecutive loss and their fifth in their last seven games was for Berezin to test Hackett with a long shot a little more than eight minutes after Korolev had scored his second goal of the season. Then, Berezin swept beyond an exhausted Eric Weinrich, who logged 32:50 of ice time on this night, and jumped on his own rebound for his game-winner.

Predictably, coach Alain Vigneault was a lot more concerned with Korolev’s tying goal than he was with the winner, as disappointing as this outcome may have been.

“The puck was semi-loose,” Vigneault agreed, “but the referee has to protect the goaltender. When you look at the league, the goalies generally are the biggest stars on their teams. If the referees don’t protect them, the players are going to do it themselves, and we don’t know where it’s gonna lead.”

Canadiens president Pierre Boivin preferred to put a positive spin on what is developing into a major negative won-lost situation.

“I don’t think anybody can fault the work ethic this team has delivered since the start of the season,” Boivin said. “They’ve worked as hard as anyone can, despite all of our injuries. We’re hoping we get a few bodies back pretty soon, but until then I’ve got to wonder how much longer this team can keep on working as hard as it has been with so many regulars hurt.”

In a perfect world, this was one the Canadiens would have won. On the other hand, maybe you’ve heard that song before.

The Savage goal, a remarkable 10th in 10 games, was another piece of film you can expect to see on plays of the week any day now, this time with the guy somehow getting away a rising shot after he had been hooked to his knees inside the blue line.

He started the play by dragging the puck beyond defenceman Cory Cross at centre ice, was pulled to his knees inside the blue line, slid toward the net for several feet and was still on his knees when he got away the shot.

Story originally published in The Montréal Gazette, October 24, 1999


BOXSCORE
1st Period
MTL PEN – 06:42 – Rucinsky, holding
MTL GOAL – 08:48 – Savage (Rucinsky, Weinrich)
MTL PEN – 09:10 – Cummins, fighting major
TOR PEN – 09:10 – Domi, fighting major
TOR GOAL – 14:37 – McCauley (Yushkevich)
MTL PEN – 16:34 – Koivu, hooking
TOR PEN – 18:30 – Thomas, tripping

2nd Period
MTL PP GOAL – 00:24 – Ribeiro (Rucinsky, Weinrich)
TOR PEN – 07:42 – Korolev, hooking
TOR GOAL – 10:12 – Korolev (Johnson, Andrusak)
TOR PEN – 15:15 – Domi, tripping
TOR GOAL – 18:32 – Berezin (Joseph)

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 03:52 – Thomas, interference
TOR PEN – 06:46 – Perreault, hooking
MTL PEN – 09:50 – Lachance, interference
TOR PEN – 18:29 – Perreault, tripping

GOALTENDERS
TOR – Joseph (W, 20-22)
MTL – Hackett (L, 20-23)

SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 10+9+4 = 23
MTL – 8+8+6 = 22

ROSTERS
TORGoaltenders: Curtis Joseph. Defence: Greg Andrusak, Cory Cross, Tomas Kaberle, Alexander Karpovtsev, Danny Markov, Dmitri Yushkevich. Forwards: Nikolai Antropov, Sergei Berezin, Tie Domi, Jonas Hoglund, Mike Johnson, Dmitri Khristich, Igor Korolev, Alyn McCauley, Yanic Perreault, Steve Thomas, Garry Valk, Todd Warriner.
MTLGoaltenders: Jeff Hackett. Defence: Karl Dykhuis, Miloslav Guren, Scott Lachance, Barry Richter, Igor Ulanov, Eric Weinrich. Forwards: Jim Cummins, Craig Darby, Matt Higgins, Saku Koivu (C), Trevor Linden, Oleg Petrov, Patrick Poulin, Mike Ribeiro, Martin Rucinsky, Brian Savage, Turner Stevenson, Scott Thornton.

ATTENDANCE
19,208

THREE STARS
Igor Korolev (TOR)
⭐⭐ Sergei Berezin (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Brian Savage (MTL)