This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup championship.
The Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings split the first two games of the Stanley Cup final in Montreal before the series moved to L.A. for Game 3 on June 5, 1993. John LeClair scored the winner in overtime as the Canadiens beat the Kings 4-3 to take a 2-1 series lead and record their ninth straight overtime victory.
Below are the columns by Michael Farber and Red Fisher that were published in The Gazette following the game:
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)
Canadiens OT magic still lives
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 6, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Ed Ronan had the words for it – over and over again. Huge. Great. Super. And, of course, wow!
He stands there watching John LeClair getting the 4-3 winner over the Los Angeles Kings 34 seconds into yet another overtime – only he’s talking, mostly, about Brian Bellows.
“Watch it … watch it,” he exults. “The big guy (LeClair) … he’s going in and barely misses … see that? But watch B.B. (Brian Bellows) coming into the play. Watch him …”
What Ronan was watching on the replay in what developed into mind- boggling ninth consecutive overtime victory, was Bellows taking out defenceman Mark Hardy and Tony Granato, along with Marty McSorley on the winning goal.
“After the big guy just missed,” said Bellows, “I knew I couldn’t get to the puck. What’s left, eh? You take the man out.”
“Look at him … look at him,” exulted Ronan. “He’s got Hardy all wrapped up, or the puck’s out of there, OK? Lookit … lookit, he taking him into (Tony) Granato …I guess. That’s huge.
“There’s John now … he’s just picking it up and look at those three Kings flopping all over the place. Get outta there,” yelled Ronan at the television monitor.
“What a goal! What a huge play by B.B. That’s hockey,” he said. “Game’s over. Thank you very much.”
And thank you, the Canadiens – as a team – must be saying to whoever or whatever it is that’s taking care of them all the way to the 2-1 lead they now hold in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup final with the Kings.
It’s doesn’t get better than this on a night when the Canadiens swept into a 3-0 lead 23 minutes into the game on goals by Bellows, Gilbert Dionne and Mathieu Schneider. Then they lost it when Luc Robitaille, Granato and Wayne Gretzky scored before the second period ended. Then Patrick Roy, who had been beaten on a soft one (Granato) saved it with a brilliant stop on Jari Kurri five minutes into the final period.
After that: Long John, the Mountain Man.
“I knew the big hillbilly was coming,” said Bellows. “You can’t help but see him coming.”
In truth, the Canadiens deserved something better than the 1-0 lead they had going into the second period – because of Kelly Hrudey’s work and several near misses.
The game was barely two minutes old, for example, when Eric Desjardins, the full-blown hero of Game 2, was in a position to score his fourth consecutive goal after getting three in Thursday’s 3-2 overtime victory. Instead, he missed the pass.
Then, it’s LeClair sweeping around Rob Blake, only to have Hrudey get in his way.
Alexei Zhitnik is in the penalty box – and now it’s Bellows – who was to score the Canadiens’ first goal, misses a delightful setup from Kirk Muller.
There’s more. Goaltenders don’t make better stops than Hrudey’s on Patrice Brisebois from the lip of the crease two minutes later.
This was, perhaps by far, the best period the Canadiens had played against the Kings. There was a jump to their skating. They were in control in their zone. Then, of course, there was Bellows, who had come out of Game 2 somewhat disenchanted after sitting out the entire second period. Coach Jacques Demers hadn’t liked what he got from Bellows in the first period. Bellows, on his part, was somewhat less than gratified with the idea of sitting while others played.
The result: he and coach Demers engaged in some light, verbal trashing, but Bellows made his point with a Bellows-type power play goal, starting when Kevin Haller delivered a shot from the blueline, whereupon Bellows headed directly for the traffic in front of Hrudey. He got there in time to deflect the shot downward through the Los Angeles goaltender’s legs – which is what Bellows is all about.
What, however, were the Canadiens, as a team, all about in a second period during which they appeared to leave the Kings dead in the water – and then lost it?
First, it’s Dionne getting his stick to a Mike Keane wrist shot 2.41 into the period.
Then, only 21 seconds later, Schneider deflects a Guy Carbonneau pass beyond Hrudey.
So here’s the game only 23 minutes old, and the Canadiens are sitting on a 3-0 lead – which is as much as anyone can hope for in a playoff game.
Instead, the Kings reeled in the Canadiens – with too many of the Canadiens problems self-inflicted. Until, that is, Long John – and Bellows – made it work again.
Is that why this man was smiling?
“Damned right,” said Bellows. “What happened with Demers – well, it happened. I was still cheering for the guys. I still am.”
LeClair puts it all together in OT
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 6, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – John LeClair, who has nerves of steel and hands that can be just as hard, is certainly persistent.
LeClair camped in front of Los Angeles Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey in the first minute of overtime and simply wore him out.
Three shots for a quarter.
Three shots for a 4-3 Montreal victory and a two games to one lead in the Stanley Cup final.
If LeClair had more time on the winning goal, he would have been arrested for loitering.
LeClair missed the far corner with his first shot, and then picked up a puck that was loose because of splendid work by Brian Bellows in taking both Tony Granato and Marty McSorley out of the play. He shot again and then gathered in the rebound.
This time LeClair was going to get it right.
“Kirk (Muller) made a great pass to me, and I just wanted to get the puck on net,” LeClair said. “It squirted through and I thought Brian was going to be able to get the rebound.”
But Bellows let the puck go through his skates, a heady play as the two Kings in the area wound up crashing and rendering themselves useless.
“That enabled me to get the free puck,” LeClair said. “I got the rebound and had a wide open net. I kind of took my time and looked and made sure I put it in.”
LeClair has six shots for the Canadiens, the most by any of the forwards who finally joined the Montreal offence. Still he also squandered a brilliant move in the first period when he shaked-and- baked a Los Angeles defenceman but couldn’t slide the puck past Hrudey on the breakaway.
If LeClair could finish them all, he really would be Kevin Stevens.
Montreal coach Jacques Demers beats this particular hobby horse on every occasion, trying to convince LeClair just how good he can be.
“John’s one of the strongest players on the team,” Demers said. “He also has a great shot like Stevens. He just has to put it all together.”
LeClair did at 34 seconds in overtime, the ninth different scorer the Canadiens have had in their nine straight wins in overtime.
“This is a great streak to have,” LeClair said. “A lot of it stems from (goalie) Patrick Roy. We have so much confidence in him.
“It wasn’t on the top of my list, scoring the winner. We have a lot of scorers, but if you’re going to win a championship, you need a lot of guys to chip in. Seems like tonight was my turn.
“I think by far that’s the biggest goal of my career. It’s a big advantage to win two straight like that and also to take the first one on the road. Things are really going our way.”
Carbo Pfinds puck, not Pfeiffer
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 6, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Guy Carbonneau was lying down on the job.
Of course Carbonneau’s best position is centre, not prone, but there he lay, face down, hugging the left post as the madness whirled around him in the Great Western Forum.
One theory was Carbo was trying to get a better look at Michelle Pfeiffer, who was only about the 373rd most beautiful person in the place.
This city is really scary.
“Someone told me Michelle Pfeiffer was out there,” Carbonneau said. “I can’t believe I missed her.”
Carbonneau was seeing stars all right, but only because Warren Rychel had cross-checked him in the back and rammed him into the ice.
There were 15 seconds left in regulation, then 14, and Captain Carbo was stuck. Down and out near Beverly Hills. Nowhere to go. So as a tiny experiment, Carbonneau decided to see just how strong the net moorings are on the Left Coast.
“Yes,” Carbonneau said, “I was trying to push it off.”
Isn’t that, uh, illegal?
Referee Terry Gregson was not about to call it. As it turned out, he was not about to call rule 53C, either.
This is turning out to be a fabulous Stanley Cup final for subsections. First illegal sticks, then puck covering. This rule says no defensive player other than the goalie can fall on the puck, hold the puck, or – here’s the part where you get out your yellow marker – gather the puck into the body when the puck is in the goal crease.
Amid the glitzy crowd at the Fabulous Forum – from right-wingers like Ronald Reagan to right-fielders like Reggie Jackson, from good actors like James Woods to bad actors like tennis yahoo Andre Agassi – there was no better gathering than Carbonneau’s.
Tomas Sandstrom of the Kings came from around the net and tried to stuff it past Patrick Roy. Rychel then tried to poke the rebound home, but Carbonneau sort of stuck out an arm – gee, isn’t the arm action similar to one needed to dislodge a post? – and drew the puck toward him. With 12.9 seconds left, Carbonneau had made the biggest save of all.
If Gregson had called it, Los Angeles would have had a penalty shot. But he ruled Rychel simply had shot the puck under Carbonneau.
Twenty minutes later – but only 47 seconds by the game clock – John LeClair scored in overtime to give the Canadiens a 4-3 victory over Los Angeles and a two games to one lead in the series. This was the second-consecutive overtime goal in the first minute by the Canadiens, their record ninth straight win in extra time.
You have come to expect no less from this Team Time and a Half.
“I don’t even know why people were yelling,” said Carbonneau. “Maybe they were yelling the puck was in the net, but it never crossed the line. The only thing they can say is that Rychel cross- checked me in the back, which should have been a penalty. Then he pushed it under me.
“Honest, I don’t even know how the puck got under me.”
And Michelle Pfeiffer freelances behind the counter at McDonald’s.
“Whatever happened, it wasn’t a penalty,” Carbonneau said. “If Rychel hadn’t cross-checked me – which was a penalty – I would have been in great position by the net to clear the rebound.
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter what the people here think.”
So this is what Captain Carbo does for the Canadiens: everything. If they need someone to check Wayne Gretzky, Carbonneau volunteers. If they need the eye of the tiger to scope out an illegal stick, Carbonneau uses his X-ray vision. If they need someone to lie sort of still on the puck to keep the Canadiens in the game, then he does that, too.
Carbonneau has owned this series, not necessarily with his skills but with his incredible smarts.
“That play by Carbo was incredible,” LeClair said. “He’s always doing something to help the team win. He sets up a goal (his pass to Mathieu Schneider gave the Canadiens a 3-0 lead) and saves a goal.”
After his save, Carbonneau was convinced the Canadiens would win. Roy was annoyed the Kings had pumped three past him in the second period, and the team was fresh because coach Jacques Demers rarely shortens his bench. The Game 2 overtime lasted 51 seconds. This one was 34. If this keeps up, the Canadiens should be out of here after Game 4 in 17 seconds of Period 4.
Then the Kings would be flat on their faces.
Clouds hover in paradise as Gretzy-to-Leafs rumor resurfaces
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 6, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Silver Spur II – that’s a Rolls Royce for you Ford plebians – parked in the ramp of the Great Western Forum bore the California tag WJPTTG.
WJPTTG is vanity plate-speak for Wayne, Janet, Paulina, Ty and Trevor, Gretzky.
Life is good. Nice family. Fabulous car. And best of all, a free indoor parking spot.
But there are clouds in paradise, and not only the ones that doused Los Angeles yesterday morning. The “Gretzky is Going” story has resurfaced. At the All-Star Game at the Forum in February, it had Montreal buzzing until Kings owner Bruce McNall stomped it. Curiously, Gretzky could also have quashed the rumor he wanted to finish his career in Toronto to be near his father, Walter, who had suffered a brain aneurysm, but he stuck a butter knife through it instead of a dagger. The story didn’t disappear, but it did take four months off.
Now an Ottawa newspaper says Gretzky wants a one-way ticket to Toronto for reasons that include McNall’s promise to his father that he be the highest paid player in hockey. Last September Mario Lemieux signed a seven-year, $42-million contract while Gretzky is still making car payments on the Rolls from his $3-million salary.
“We’ve talked at length, but I’ve got to force Wayne’s hand at the end of the playoffs,” McNall said in an interview. “I talked to Wayne last summer, but he didn’t think he had done the job. He equated the job with this” – McNall gestured toward the ice – “and not his other job, filling the building. Wayne is sensitive to the fact that I’m in a building that doesn’t generate a lot of revenues. This summer, I’ll change his deal.
“There’s nothing else. I don’t know how these things get started, but then, that’s Mon-re-al.”
OK. That’s one version. But again faced with the chance to kneecap the story, Gretzky went limp.
“It’s very unfortunate that it happened at this time,” Gretzky said after the Kings’ morning skate before Game 3. “This probably is the most fun I’ve had in hockey for a long time.
“I have a pretty good relationship with Mr. McNall. I have an excellent relationship with Barry (Melrose, the Kings coach) and Cap (Raeder, an assistant).”
We interrupt this Q&A to merely underscore the difference. Excellent: Melrose and Raeder. Pretty good: McNall. Considering Gretzky and McNall are also business partners in horses, collectibles and the Toronto Argonauts, pretty good hardly sounds real good. Now back to the story.
“What needs to be discussed between me and the Kings will happen after the season is over,” Gretzky said. “There’s nothing really to be made of it. Obviously some things have to be worked out. They’re not very major problems by any means.”
Gretzky said McNall volunteered three months ago to make good on his word, but His Greatness said it wasn’t time to negotiate a contract.
“Especially now in the playoffs,” Gretzky said. “When the season’s over, we’ll sit down and get things done. My concern is winning a championship. Anything less than 100 per cent focus on that is crazy.”
The Kings first learned about the story Friday before they left Montreal. Other than McNall’s comments before the game, the response has been non-existent – unless you count the shrugs.
“Totally false,” Melrose said.
“I told Wayne if he’s spreading rumors, Toronto is the last place he should go.” Melrose was smiling. “They’re the most defensive team in the league, and they wouldn’t fit his style.
“Wayne’s been through so much as a player. There were the stories he was going to quit because of his back and then the stuff at the All-Star game. We’re a high-profile team, and we’re going to get a lot of media writing about us. Wayne and I just had a laugh about it.”
Gretzky said his father understands his hockey career has to take him from the family’s Ontario home and in his most vehement part of his non-denial denial, he said he likes raising his children in Los Angeles because they face less pressure than they would “in Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal or real hockey cities.” “That,” Gretzky said, “has been the easiest and best part of the whole trade (from Edmonton.)”
Gretzky did not mention what was in second place, but the impression he gave in this snapshot of a moment was that the list of benefits did not exactly read like a Russian novel.
Will you finish your career in Los Angeles?
“I hope so,” Gretzky said.