Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1
Saturday, March 31, 2001
Centre Molson, Montréal, QC
The first four meetings between the Montréal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs this season ended with frustration for Montréal and two relatively easy points for Toronto on each occasion.
The roles were reversed Saturday, at a time when the Leafs could ill afford it.
Goaltender Curtis Joseph smashed his stick against the ice as his team departed following the 4-1 loss, an indication the Leafs are a desperate and confused hockey team which, were it not for a pair of key victories over the Philadelphia Flyers recently, would be staring regular-season elimination in the face.
How different things were just a few months ago when the Leafs walked into Montréal and beat the Canadiens 6-1, a thrashing that less than 48 hours later resulted in the firing of head coach Alain Vigneault and general manager Réjean Houle.
Toronto was then in a streak in which they’d lost just one game of 11.
In March, they failed to put together consecutive wins.
“It’s been cockiness at some times and fear at others,” Toronto coach Pat Quinn said in trying to explain his team’s downfall. “It started off with cockiness because at the mid-point of the season we were in first place and then we started to lose against teams we shouldn’t have.
“We can’t change that, we just have to try to scoop up some people who have lost confidence and who aren’t playing anywhere near the way they were when we were in first place.”
Today, instead of fighting for first, the Leafs are trying to hold onto a playoff spot, sitting seventh in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, five points behind Pittsburgh, four ahead of the Boston Bruins and three in front of Carolina.
If they make the playoffs, Toronto is assured of meeting either Ottawa or New Jersey in the first round. Their only win in seven games against either of those teams this season came November 2.
“We aren’t assured of anything yet,” said Toronto’s Darcy Tucker, who assisted on the team’s only goal Saturday. “There’s three games left and we have to win them all. They (Montréal) played hard and we didn’t match their intensity. From a player’s perspective, that sucks. We have to win all three of these games to make ourselves feel good. In Philly we looked like Stanley Cup contenders and then we look like losers.”
Despite Tucker’s harsh assessment, Saturday’s loss wasn’t Toronto’s worst performance of the season. The Canadiens had luck on their side for their two first-period goals, but the Leafs were simply unable to come back against a team that has 44 losses.
In salvaging the last meeting between these two teams this season, it was the Canadiens who seemed relaxed and in control for a change.
“That’s the advantage teams out of the playoffs have,” Quinn said. “It’s an easier game to play when it has no stress.”
“They’re finding all kinds of ways (to beat us). That first goal was an absolute fluke. We killed a penalty and then it goes 25 feet in the air and comes down in the net.
“I would say we have seen a lot of different sides to this hockey club that have been troubling to us,” Quinn said.
The Leafs face the Islanders at home on Wednesday, go to Chicago on Friday and close out in Ottawa on Saturday.
Two of those games should be easy marks for points, but this is a team that is learning to take nothing for granted.
“I don’t want to assume we’re in the playoffs,” Joseph said.
“We still have three games in play so let’s not assume anything right now.”
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 2, 2001
TOR PEN – 05:46 – Ponikarovsky, hooking
MTL GOAL – 07:49 – Dykhuis (Savage, Petrov)
TOR PEN – 09:09 – Sundin, hooking
MTL PP GOAL – 10:54 – Dykhuis (Rucinsky, Bulis)
TOR PEN – 19:20 – Korolev, hooking
MTL GOAL – 03:00 – Brunet (Campbell, Dykhuis)
MTL PEN – 04:35 – Théodore, slashing
MTL PEN – 11:10 – Rucinsky, high sticking
TOR PP GOAL – 12:21 – Berg (Tucker, Perreault)
TOR PEN – 19:13 – Perreault, tripping
MTL PEN – 00:36 – Brisebois, hooking
MTL EN GOAL – 19:06 – Darby (Brunet, Souray)
MTL – Théodore (W, 32-33)
TOR – Joseph (L, 18-21)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 7+9+6 = 22
TOR – 5+13+15 = 33
MTL – Goaltenders: José Théodore. Defence: Francis Bouillon, Patrice Brisebois, Karl Dykhuis, Andrei Markov, Stéphane Robidas, Sheldon Souray, Patrick Traverse. Forwards: Arron Asham, Benoît Brunet, Jan Bulis, Jim Campbell, Craig Darby, Chad Kilger, Saku Koivu (C), Oleg Petrov, Martin Rucinsky, Brian Savage, Richard Zednik.
TOR – Goaltenders: Curtis Joseph. Defence: Aki Berg, Tomas Kaberle, Dave Manson, Danny Markov, Bryan McCabe, Dmitri Yushkevich. Forwards: Nikolai Antropov, Sergei Berezin, Tie Domi, Jonas Hoglund, Igor Korolev, Alyn McCauley, Yanic Perreault, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Gary Roberts, Mats Sundin (C), Steve Thomas, Darcy Tucker.
⭐ Karl Dykhuis (MTL)
⭐⭐ José Théodore (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Patrice Brisebois (MTL)