This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup championship.
The Canadiens evened the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final at 1-1 with Eric Desjardins’s overtime goal in Game 2 at the Forum on June 3, 1993, for a 3-2 victory before the teams headed to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.
Below are the columns by Michael Farber and Red Fisher that were published in The Gazette setting up Game 3, which was played on June 5, 1993.
(Photo by John Mahoney/The Gazette)
Pulling Roy yet another gamble that paid off for Habs’ Demers
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 5, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jacques Demers said he is not much of a gambler, but the gimmick he pulled at the finish of Game 2 was a no- brainer.
The stick measurement on Marty McSorley?
Sure. That, too.
“Had to do it,” Demers said. “Our team didn’t cheat. The rules are there to be applied. We just used the rules, that’s all, and if they were in the same situation, they would have, too, no matter what Barry Melrose said. I’ve respected Barry for 20 years, and I’m not going to stop now. But it’s the responsibility of the coach to make sure his players’ sticks are legal. You can’t lay it off on the trainers. It’s the coach.”
But Ol’ 7-11 Jacques was thinking more along the lines of pulling Patrick Roy to give the Canadiens, in effect, a six-on-four power play against a team that, with Wayne Gretzky, can turn the puck over and score in a heartbeat.
The Canadiens were a pathetic 0-for-32 on the power play to that point and had given the Kings a gift-wrapped short-handed goal in the second period. Just as Quebec’s Pierre Page pulled Ron Hextall with a late power-play and got to overtime against Montreal 17 playoff games ago, Demers took the plunge.
“Our power play’s been garbage for two or three weeks,” Demers said. “It’s been getting on my nerves. That’s why I pulled Patrick. The gamble would have been to try and score when we had the five-on- four because we haven’t got the job done. But now that we have the one” – Eric Desjardins scored his third goal of the game – “maybe we’ll get rolling again. Sometimes one is all it takes.
“We have a lot of kids on the power play, and it shows,” Demers added. “Patrice Brisebois (undressed at the point by Dave Taylor on the Kings’ short-handed goal) is 22. Kevin Haller is 22. It looks like we’re nervous.
“Against Buffalo, we had success. (The Canadiens were 6-for-16, 37.5 per cent, and scored at least once in each of the games.) Nothing complicated. We were just shooting the puck. Right now, I don’t like our power play.”
Apparently neither did Brisebois. With the Canadiens trailing by a goal and fewer than seven minutes remaining, he cross-checked one of the Kings who already was on the ice. The penalty aborted another stillborn man advantage for the Canadiens, which would have been their last shot if McSorley had not been caught with his illegal blade.
Brisebois’s was the third of three retaliatory penalties in the period, hardly heady plays because referee Kerry Fraser was calling this tighter than a corset. Benoit Brunet slashed Kings defenceman Rob Blake 91 seconds into the period and a minute later Vincent Damphousse cross-checked Gretzky in the face, compounding the mistake by giving Los Angeles a five-on-three advantage for 61 seconds. Patrick Roy made two good stops on Jari Kurri, getting his teammates off the hook.
“It’s not acceptable,” Demers said. “It could have cost us the game. The penalties were merited, and win or lose, I would have said that Fraser called a good game. We were disciplined for three rounds, but we weren’t last night.”
Desjardins just a quiet fisherman; But Game 2 hero a big catch on ice
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 5, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Meet Eric Desjardins, up close and personal.
He likes to fish.
He listens to the band U-2.
He, he, he …
“He’s left-handed,” Mike Keane offered. “Does that help?”
Sure. Now the whole world knows that a left-handed, fishin’ musician of a defenceman has scored more goals in one Stanley Cup final game than Raymond Bourque or Paul Coffey or any of the other marquee players who right now could make it onto Lifestyles of the Rich and Eliminated. Or Bobby Orr, for that matter. No defenceman ever had managed a hat trick in a Cup final, which is why Desjardins is the biggest short story in hockey.
Desjardins has nothing to say, and he is only going to say it once.
“We’re a team,” Desjardins said yesterday on the way to Game 3 with the Los Angeles Kings. “But that doesn’t mean you share everything with everybody. I know a lot about some guys here. Others, I don’t. I just know when a game comes what my teammates have to do. For sure I’ve got a few good relations, but I don’t share everything with other guys. If a guy wants to open himself and he’s your friend, you’ll always be ready for that. But I’m not always comfortable talking about myself.”
With his playoff beard, Desjardins hardly looks like a hockey player. Put him in a tweed coat with elbow patches, he could pass for a minor poet. (Of course Desjardins wouldn’t be caught dead in professorial tweed because he is far too stylish. Good. Mark that down just under left-handed. “Fashionable dresser.”)
He could while away his days in the tranquility of his garret, which would seem to suit him fine. Desjardins is from the Abitibi region, which has produced more doers than talkers.
“A lot of quiet guys from there,” Canadiens coach Jacques Demers said.
Assistant coach Jacques Laperriere, goalie Andre Racicot (Desjardins’s best friend on the team) Pierre and Sylvain Turgeon hail from this mining area in the north, hard by the Ontario border. There is not a Most Voluble Player in the bunch.
No matter what happens in this best-of-five against the Kings, the lasting image of Desjardins in the 1993 playoffs will be his joy in scoring the overtime winner in Game 2. Once it was Rocket 5, Maple Leafs 1. Now it is Desjardins 3, L.A. 2. But without the hat trick, he surely would have been remembered not as part of a Big Three but as one of The Three Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens.
Desjardins is a respectful player who takes care of his equipment, but with 10 seconds left in Game 4 in Buffalo, he got a little carried away. His glove came off during a scramble in front of the Montreal net and as he bent down to retrieve it, his check, Yuri Khymlev, scored to send the game into overtime.
This was brainlock in the first degree, mitigated only by a Canadiens victory. Desjardins remembers bending down and thinking, “What am I doing? Forget the glove.” He turned around and the red light was on.
“You know, I’ve seen guys do that with sticks before, but that was the first glove,” Demers said. “But I didn’t say anything to Eric. I couldn’t. I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t know he’s not supposed to do that. I’m emotional and he’s shy, but our relationship is good. He likes the fact that I talk to him. Eric respects authority. He’s an introvert, but he’s not afraid to express himself, either.”
Not when he finds a topic he likes. Fishing. Pat Burns. When his former coach left for Toronto, Desjardins was one of only two or three critical players not to hide behind the One Canadien Said. Burns felt betrayed because as an assistant coach for Team Canada in 1991, he had lobbied for Desjardins to play in the Canada Cup.
Desjardins made the team, and Team Canada made him. He had turned 22 that summer. He was mobile and strong, although not particularly tough, and he had an industrial-strength shot that almost always was on net. He had played with Larry Robinson in the 1989 Stanley Cup final to good reviews, but now paired with Steve Smith, he announced himself as one of the best young defencemen in the world.
All he had to do was keep his promise.
“You go to Canada Cup as a kid, they all expect you to be Bobby Orr,” said Demers, who worked the series as a television analyst. “Eric Desjardins. Canada Cup. Montreal Canadiens. Now he was one of the elites in hockey in Canada. Gosh – how many defencemen are there to choose from?
“But maybe he couldn’t handle it. Maybe it didn’t set well with him because expectations came too high. He was tagged an instant star, and I’m not sure Eric has the personality to deal with that. He played pretty well for us this year. There were some tough periods, but I think he gave us a lot. Still, people always seemed a little disappointed in him.”
Desjardins wiped that out in about 61 minutes in Game 2. A star is reborn. Demers switched defence pairs, matching Desjardins with Mathieu Schneider for the first time this year in order to free tough guy Lyle Odelein with the frailer Kevin Haller. Magic. Desjardins twice tied the score, the second time with 73 seconds remaining and the Montreal net vacant, and he won it 51 seconds into overtime. Desjardins stayed up to catch the 2 a.m. sportscast, sort of for verification.
Meanwhile, his father, Aurel, called from Rouyn.
“He is a quiet man,” Desjardins said. Quite a shock. “But he was at a party, and he was more expressive than usual. I asked him not to party too much, (the series) is not over, but he said, `Kid, enjoy it. That’s something that doesn’t happen every day.’ ”
No. It happens oh, just about never. Until Game 2. And now Desjardins has completed the circle. He has done something even more stunning than playing in a Canada Cup at age 22, raising the expectations after they had finally been downgraded from star to solid. Desjardins can play another 10 years in the league, and he will never surpass himself. His game can never be better than it was in Game 2.
“Stats wise, that’s true,” Desjardins said. “I understand that it was a performance out of the ordinary, and I’m sure I won’t repeat it. So I have to find something else I can do better. True, I did something Orr and Harvey and Bourque never did, but they did a lot of things I didn’t do.”
If there is a parade on Ste. Catherine St., Desjardins can look back and say, “Game 2, the turning point. That baby is mine.” But he won’t. He is too sure of himself to need the praise. He might not live up to everyone else’s image, but he is committed to living up to his own.
In any case, Eric Desjardins is back. The Gone Fishin’ sign on his game has been taken down.
Cup final moves to Los Angeles
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 5, 1993
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Brian Bellows says he doesn’t want to talk about it.
Canadiens coach Jacques Demers says he must – with Bellows – and long before tonight’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final with the Los Angeles Kings.
What both are talking about is the fact that Bellows, who’s been a standout during the regular season and through most of the playoffs, was used only sparingly during the first period of Thursday’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Kings. He was part of Team Benched throughout the second period, which led to a few sparks between the two.
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Bellows said yesterday. Then he talked about it.
“How do I feel about it?” he asked. “Maybe you should ask him (Demers) how he feels about it. I didn’t play much in the first period. We had a lot of penalties to kill. Did I really play that bad, though?
“I didn’t think so,” Bellows said. “Obviously, he did. I don’t make the decisions about who plays and who doesn’t.
“Anyway, whatever went on is between me and him,” Bellows added. “Am I bitter? Am I angry? I don’t really know how I feel about it.”
So, how does the kindly ol’ coach feel about it?
“The first thing I want you to know,” Demers said, “is that I haven’t had any kind of a problem with Bellows all season. If you talk with the players on this team, I think – I’m sure they’d tell you that I’m a very patient guy and a pretty good guy.
“What Brian has to realize – and I’m sure he does – is that hey, this is the Stanley Cup final. All I want now is a complete effort from the players. It’s what I need. It’s what we all need.
“When I see a Mike Keane, who’s got back spasms, coming back for the second game and giving it everything he’s got, hey – I’ve got a lot of respect for that kid. I know Brian has played hurt, but we’ve got to get on with it.
“I’ve got to get a complete effort from everybody, and I wasn’t getting it from Bellows,” Demers added. “I sat him down. It wasn’t anything more than that. We’ll talk about it before the next game. I promise.”
Demers’s displeasure with Bellows was caught by the television cameras. The image flashed from coast to coast showed an exercised Demers giving his player the thumb – jerked in the direction of the nearest exit.
Why was Jumpin’ Jacques so upset?
At one point in his enforced absence in the second period, Bellows turned to Demers and said: “I’m ready to play.”
He was greeted with a discreet silence.
“I’m ready to play,” Bellows repeated.
Enter the Demers thumb.
Exit Bellows’s chances of getting on the ice at any point during the second period.
“I don’t feel good about this,” Bellows said, “but whatever happened has nothing to do with what I feel for my teammates. After the second period, I went into the gym, worked on the bike, and came out ready to play in the third period. I played and I was as happy as anybody else that we’d won.
“Is all this behind me now?” he asked. “I don’t really know. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Said Demers: “I don’t blame Bellows for being unhappy with what happened. I’m not happy with what happened, either. I certainly wasn’t telling him he was out of the game because he played in the third period.
“It’s something we’ve got to talk about, though,” Demers added. “He’s a very good player. He’s got pride. His family is watching and he’s on the bench because I put him there. That’s not much fun.
“He may have had problems with other coaches, but I haven’t had a problem with him all season, and he doesn’t want one now.
“Is he still bothered by his rib injury? I don’t know,” Demers continued. “What I do know is that in a perfect world, we’re only 180 minutes away from the Stanley Cup. I want the best from everybody.”
Bellows, of course, is in the lineup tonight. So is the remainder of the team which pulled a rabbit out of a Canadiens cap to tie the Stanley Cup final at 1-1.
The Canadiens stuck it to the Kings by calling for a measurement of Marty McSorley’s stick. The Canadiens were right – and McSorley’s stick wrong – so with the Kings defenceman in the penalty box and Patrick Roy yanked from the net in favor of a sixth attacker, Eric Desjardins’s second goal of the game with 1:13 remaining sent the teams into overtime tied 2-2.
Desjardins’s third of the night, 51 seconds into the overtime, sent the Canadiens home happy. It’s why Demers will come back with the same team tonight.