Game 643 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1

Game 643
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1
Saturday, December 18, 1999
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

These are no longer the Flying Frenchmen. They really haven’t been for some time.

But despite an injury list almost as long as their roster, a paucity of talent and a supposed goalie controversy, the Montréal Canadiens gave the Maple Leafs a lesson in both hockey and humility last night.

This was a game that, on paper, the talent-heavy Leafs should have won with ease. Instead, it took a Sergei Berezin goal with less that four minutes remaining for Toronto to eke out a 2-1 victory.

Berezin, bumped up again from the fourth line, buried an excellent feed from linemate Mike Johnson to end what has been a troubling slump for the left winger. He’d had just four points in his last 11 games and coach Pat Quinn has been juggling his lines in an attempt to get one of his important offensive players contributing again.

“I haven’t scored many goals lately and to get the game winner in a game like this against Montréal is nice,” said Berezin, who had to cut short his post-game media scrum to get five stitches near his left eye after some late-game stick work.

Putting him back with long-time centre Igor Korolev paid off with the winner in a game that was sloppy but fast-paced and entertaining. Unlike Monday when the Leafs failed to show against a banged-up Ottawa club and ultimately lost 3-1, they generated several good chances last night once they came to life.

Montréal netminder Jeff Hackett has been asking for more ice time to help him return to form and he may have earned it last night with several good saves. The win keeps Toronto atop the Eastern Conference. In their last 10 games, the Leafs have lost only twice with a 7-2-1 record. They continue to sport the best home record in the East at 16-4-2.

Again though it was Curtis Joseph who assured the win. In the dying seconds with Toronto’s Steve Thomas in the penalty box and Hackett off for an extra attacker, Joseph made breathtaking stops on Patrice Brisebois and Benoît Brunet to keep this contest from going into overtime.

Captain Mats Sundin said he was not surprised at the tenacity of the Canadiens in a game that included some good early hitting.

“Every time there’s a game between Montréal and Toronto, it’s kind of a playoff-like atmosphere and it’s that kind of game. It doesn’t matter where the teams are in the standings, it’s always intense. And without those huge saves from (Joseph) at the end, it could have gone either way.”

Early in the game, it was difficult to tell which team was at which end of the standings. And which team has been decimated by serious injuries.

It was the banged-up and floundering Canadiens who had the best early chances, taking nine of the first 11 shots and generally playing like they cared. Other than some bull work by Sundin, there was little immediate passion in Toronto’s game.

It was as if the Leafs looked at a Canadiens’ injured list that includes Saku Koivu, Trevor Linden, Oleg Petrov, Brian Savage and Vladimir Malakhov, yawned, and decided a win was in the bag.

The Leafs got it going briefly past the midway point of the opening frame when Sundin showed some terrific hustle around the Montréal net. Twice he delivered sweet, precise backhand passes on to the stick of Thomas. Both times however, Hackett turned away the hard-luck winger.

Given how hard the Habs were working – and hard work is how they’ve stayed within reach of a playoff position in this disastrous season – it’s not surprising that they scored the first goal. And it wasn’t exactly Guy Lafleur from Jacques Lemaire.

Instead, it was potted by Jim Cummins after a nice set-up from Arron Asham. Asham, working behind the Toronto net, turned Kevyn Adams inside out with a great move and then fed the puck across the goal mouth to Cummins.

Cummins, left uncovered by defenceman Chris McAllister, banged the puck past Joseph for his third of the season after the Toronto netminder had made an excellent first save.

After what was a four-game homestand, Toronto will now play 14 of their next 20 games on the road, starting tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, December 19, 1999

1st Period
TOR PEN – 07:46 – McAllister, high sticking
MTL PEN – 15:39 – Ward, roughing

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 04:14 – Cross, interference
MTL GOAL – 10:00 – Cummins (Asham, Bouillon)
TOR PEN – 12:06 – McAllister, slashing
MTL PEN – 12:06 – Corson, slashing
MTL PEN – 15:54 – Cummins, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 16:17 – Yushkevich (Thomas, Sundin)
TOR PEN – 17:01 – Karpovtsev, holding

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 05:57 – McAllister, high sticking
MTL PEN – 11:17 – Stevenson, tripping
TOR GOAL – 16:18 – Berezin (Johnson, Korolev)
TOR PEN – 19:37 – Thomas, hooking

TOR – Joseph (W, 21-22)
MTL – Hackett (L, 22-24)

TOR – 8+5+11 = 24
MTL – 9+7+6 = 22

TORGoaltenders: Curtis Joseph. Defence: Bryan Berard, Cory Cross, Tomas Kaberle, Alexander Karpovtsev, Dmitri Yushkevich (A). Forwards: Kevyn Adams, Nikolai Antropov, Sergei Berezin, Tie Domi, Jonas Hoglund, Mike Johnson, Dmitri Khristich, Igor Korolev, Adam Mair, Chris McAllister, Mats Sundin (C), Steve Thomas (A), Garry Valk.
MTLGoaltenders: Jeff Hackett. Defence: Francis Bouillon, Patrice Brisebois, Karl Dykhuis, Craig Rivet, Igor Ulanov, Eric Weinrich. Forwards: Arron Asham, Benoît Brunet, Shayne Corson (A), Jim Cummins, Craig Darby, Patrick Poulin, Martin Rucinsky, Turner Stevenson (A), Scott Thornton, Jason Ward, Sergei Zholtok, Dainius Zubrus.

TOR – 19-9-4-2 (.647)
MTL – 11-19-2-1 (.379)


Bryan Berard (TOR)
⭐⭐ Nikolai Antropov (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Jeff Hackett (MTL)