Game 649 – Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1

Game 649
Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1
Saturday, February 24, 2001
Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

When professorial Maple Leaf president Ken Dryden moved his team to the Eastern Conference almost three years ago, it’s safe to say he envisioned a rivalry with the Montréal Canadiens filled with intensity, vitriol and an elevated level of hockey.

What he got was a bunch of patsies who are every bit as impotent and hopeless as the Leaf teams his Canadiens used to smack around with regularity throughout the 1970s.

The Maple Leafs waxed the Canadiens 5-1 last night, which should come as no surprise since the Leafs have made a habit of spanking the Canadiens over the past two seasons.

With the win, the Leafs ran their record to 4-0-0 this season and have outscored the Canadiens by an 18-4 margin. In fact, last night’s game marks the first time since 1951 that the Leafs have won four straight against the Canadiens in one season.

Also with the win, the Leafs won back-to-back games for the first time in almost a month and have positioned themselves to win three straight for the first time since mid-December if they can take care of the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the United Center. In the two wins since the botched Eric Lindros trade, the Leafs have scored nine goals and given up just two, so they’re feeling quite optimistic about their chances.

“That’s two games where we’ve played really well,” said goalie Curtis Joseph. “Let’s make it a third (tonight).”

To a man the Leafs had some sympathy for the plight of the hapless Canadiens (how strange does that sound?) but not enough to play down to their level the way they often have this season against weaker teams.

Of course, the Canadiens and their defensive zone bumbling helped ensure the victory by a large margin. It wasn’t that the Canadiens lacked the requisite effort but, darn it, Johan Witehall can only do so much.

The Leafs’ first two goals by Jonas Hoglund and Shayne Corson came on glaring Montréal giveaways by defenceman Patrice Brisebois and goalie Jeff Hackett, respectively. The Canadiens then proved they’re as unlucky as they are lousy when Steve Thomas scored off two Canadien defencemen to put Leafs up 3-0. Sergei Berezin’s goal came on a two-man advantage and Garry Valk completed the scoring with his second in two games.

The Leafs were the recipients of some fortuitous bounces but they also drove to the net better and, as GM-coach Pat Quinn pointed out, they were due for some ugly goals.

“Our club has always been one to get the pretty goal every time, the masterpiece,” Quinn said. “This game demands that, depending on the team you’re playing, you can’t do masterpieces as often as you’d like.”

Saku Koivu replied for the Canadiens, who face the real possibility of getting skunked by Toronto when the Leafs visit the Canadiens March 31.

“That was a lot closer game…we had the lucky goals,” Quinn said. “I think what the fans can feel is a sense of competition. I think the rivalry is still there and the games are always intense. I know our room was tense tonight getting ready to play.”

That may very well have been because of the Leafs’ tenuous hold on a playoff spot more than anything else. Going in, Leafs were in seventh place in the East and held a four-point lead on eighth-place Carolina, 2-1 losers to the Washington Capitals.

“We looked at this game as a must-win for us, again,” said captain Mats Sundin. “We’re still in the middle of the pack in a dogfight.

“We need to beat the teams that are behind us right now and tonight we really showed, especially early on in the game, that we wanted those two points more than they did.”

Joseph agreed there’s a new sense of commitment post-Lindros.

“Our focus seems to be there the last two games,” Joseph said. “We’re focused on what we have to do and everybody is doing their jobs. We don’t have too many passengers any more.”

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, February 25, 2001

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 01:06 – Hoglund
TOR GOAL – 11:30 – Corson

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 07:15 – Dykhuis, roughing
TOR PP GOAL – 08:11 – Thomas (Kaberle, McCabe)
TOR PEN – 08:45 – Tucker, high sticking
MTL PEN – 17:24 – Zubrus, charging

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 01:57 – Koivu (Petrov, Kilger)
TOR PEN – 02:55 – Belak, interference
MTL PEN – 03:35 – Koivu, high sticking double minor
MTL PEN – 06:10 – Robidas, boarding
TOR PP2 GOAL – 06:20 – Berezin (Perreault, Yushkevich)
TOR GOAL – 09:44 – Valk (Antropov, Domi)
MTL PEN – 11:20 – Bélanger, fighting major
TOR PEN – 11:20 – Belak, slashing + fighting major
TOR PEN – 14:18 – Antropov, interference

TOR – Joseph (W, 23-24)
MTL – Hackett (L, 24-29)

TOR – 10+7+12 = 29
MTL – 4+12+8 = 24

TORGoaltenders: Curtis Joseph. Defence: Nathan Dempsey, Tomas Kaberle, Dave Manson, Bryan McCabe (A), Dmitri Yushkevich. Forwards: Nikolai Antropov, Wade Belak, Sergei Berezin, Shayne Corson, Tie Domi, Jonas Hoglund, Igor Korolev, Yanic Perreault, Gary Roberts (A), Mats Sundin (C), Steve Thomas, Darcy Tucker, Garry Valk.

MTLGoaltenders: José Théodore. Defence: Patrice Brisebois, Matthieu Descôteaux, Karl Dykhuis, Stéphane Robidas, Sheldon Souray, Patrick Traverse. Forwards: Francis Bélanger, Jim Campbell, Craig Darby, Chad Kilger, Saku Koivu (C), Éric Landry, Trevor Linden, Oleg Petrov, Patrick Poulin, Martin Rucinsky, Johan Witehall, Dainius Zubrus.

TOR – 28-21-10-4 (.556)
MTL – 20-34-5-4 (.389)


Curtis Joseph (TOR)
⭐⭐ Bryan McCabe (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Jonas Hoglund (TOR)