Game 651 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 2

Game 651
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 2
Saturday, October 6, 2001
Centre Molson, Montréal, Québec

Long after the Molson Centre audience had greeted him with a five-minute deafening ovation, long after he had stood there biting his lower lip to prevent the tears from flowing, Saku Koivu had the right words for it: “It was incredible,” he said. “I felt great.” Then he added: “Things look a little better on the ice, too.”

He was right on both counts. From the moment the team’s cancer-stricken captain, wearing his jersey and a smile that flashed off and on was the last player to be introduced in the hot, white light of opening-night ceremonies, there was no longer a noise in the arena, but thunder enveloping it.

Thousands upon thousands of voices roaring as one: “Saku! Saku! Saku!”

That was indeed incredible.

And from start to finish in Saturday’s 2-2 tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs, despite a paper-thin seven shots the Canadiens delivered halfway through the game, “things looked a little better” on the ice. What’s more, they might improve even more when Doug Gilmour – now signed to a one-year contract and a second at the team’s option in what can charitably be described as the hockey world’s worst-kept secret – joins his new team today. He won’t play for two and perhaps as long as three weeks working his 38-year-old body into game shape, but not to worry.

“He should be good,” Koivu said.

For his part, Gilmour echoes his captain’s view. “Everything I’ve read about the Canadiens doesn’t give the Canadiens a chance to make the playoffs,” Gilmour said in a telephone conference call with media people before the hard-earned tie. “I don’t agree.”

What everybody can agree about Saturday’s game, which delivered a power-play goal from Mike Ribeiro in the first period and a game- tying marker in the third from Yanic Perreault, both following seeing-eye, second-effort passes from Brian Savage (he has six points in his first two games) and their 6-4 win on Thursday in Ottawa, is that the team’s goaltending is in special hands. In Thursday’s season-opener, Jeff Hackett was the difference. On Saturday, José Théodore was the difference, from the game’s early moments when he slid across the net to deflect a short shot bunted out of the air by Alyn McCauley fewer than four minutes into the game.

Théodore was to excel time and time again while the Maple Leafs were outshooting the Canadiens 17-11 in the first two periods and 29- 22 on the game, including three by each team in overtime. On the other hand, Curtis Joseph had his moments as well, notably 15 minutes into the second period when Benoît Brunet, a high-flier with four of the Canadiens’ six shots in the period, was sent in alone by Joé Juneau. Joseph was to add a game-saver in the overtime when he stopped Karl Dykhuis on a breakaway.

Robert Reichel was in the penalty box when Ribeiro beat Joseph in the game’s eighth minute, a lead that held until Mats Sundin beat Théodore in the wake of a 2-on-1 with Jonas Hoglund against Patrick Traverse, the lone Canadiens defender. Seven minutes into the third period, Nik Antropov came out from behind the net to lift the Leafs into the lead. Théodore had made an initial stop on Garry Valk but, alas, the rebound went directly to the Leafs centreman. From there, he swept around the net and caught the short side on Théodore.

Two minutes later, Perreault made life worth living again for the sellout audience of 21,273 when he beat Joseph with a rising laser to the far corner after jumping on a Savage pass – the latter’s fifth assist in two games. (Last season, Savage didn’t deliver his fourth and fifth assists until Game 8 on a night when he also scored three goals in a 5-2 victory over Carolina). On this night, Savage contributed his two important points, despite logging only 9:05 in the first two periods. Only Brunet, Chad Kilger and Gino Odjick put in less time.

Savage, dedicated team man that he is, was inclined to shrug off his inactivity – particularly since he was a lot busier (7:28) in the final period. “It was one of those things, I guess,” he grunted. “He (coach Michel Therrien) was caught up in matching lines. It happens.”

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, October 8, 2001

1st Period
TOR PEN – 06:27 – Reichel, holding
MTL PP GOAL – 07:34 – Ribeiro (Savage)
MTL PEN – 09:10 – Rucinsky, hooking
TOR PEN – 14:35 – Manson, roughing
MTL PEN – 14:48 – Savage, high sticking
MTL PEN – 18:41 – Traverse, holding

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 05:05 – Sundin (Hoglund, Renberg)
MTL PEN – 07:16 – Robidas, tripping
TOR PEN – 14:42 – McCabe, hooking

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 07:14 – Antropov (Valk, McCauley)
MTL GOAL – 09:16 – Perreault (Savage, Robidas)
TOR PEN – 13:47 – Manson, slashing

TOR PEN – 03:58 – Corson, fighting major
MTL PEN – 03:58 – Quintal, fighting major

TOR – Joseph (T, 20-22)
MTL – Théodore (T, 27-29)

TOR – 9+8+9+3 = 29
MTL – 5+6+8+3 = 22

TORGoaltenders: Curtis Joseph, Corey Schwab. Defence: Aki Berg, Cory Cross, Anders Eriksson, Dave Manson, Bryan McCabe, Dmitri Yushkevich. Forwards: Nikolai Antropov, Shayne Corson, Travis Green, Jonas Hoglund, Alyn McCauley, Alexander Mogilny, Robert Reichel, Mikael Renberg, Gary Roberts, Mats Sundin (C), Darcy Tucker, Garry Valk.
MTLGoaltenders: Jeff Hackett, José Théodore. Defence: Patrice Brisebois, Karl Dykhuis, Stéphane Quintal, Craig Rivet, Stéphane Robidas, Patrick Traverse. Forwards: Benoît Brunet, Jan Bulis, Andreas Dackell, Joé Juneau, Chad Kilger, Gino Odjick, Yanic Perreault, Oleg Petrov, Mike Ribeiro, Martin Rucinsky, Brian Savage, Richard Zednik.

TOR – 0-1-1-0 (.250)
MTL – 1-0-1-0 (.750)


José Théodore (MTL)
⭐⭐ Mats Sundin (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Brian Savage (MTL)