As we wait and hope for an end to the NHL lockout, Canadiens fans can relive the 1992-93 season – the last year the Habs won the Stanley Cup – at HIO as we post game stories from that season.
The Habs took a 20-9-3 record into a game against the Quebec Nordiques on Dec. 16, 1992 at the Forum. Below is Red Fisher’s story from that game:
Habs all talk and no action in loss to Nordiques
Long after this one was over, too long, the doors on this chamber of horrors remained locked.
What, after all, does it matter if a Canadiens organization is fined $500 for keeping the dandy lions of journalism at bay beyond the maximum 10 minutes after the end of a game – when infinitely more was lost in this 5-1 thrashing by the Quebec Nordiques?
“A meeting,” a Canadiens spokesman was to explain. “The players have asked for a meeting by themselves. No coach in the room. No trainers. Only the players.”
It may have been the first time the players met, as a team, all night.
Did these young bloods get together to determine why it is that this team has relinquished 15 goals in the last two games?
Did they talk about what had to be done tonight in Quebec to make things better?
Did they wonder aloud why it is that after one monologue after another has been delivered to warn against the idea of falling behind by several goals, that’s precisely what happened to them last night – yet again.
There almost surely was a lot of time devoted to their own shortcomings last night. After all, their only goal was scored in the third period by Kirk Muller. Far too little and much too late, of course, when it’s considered that Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko had provided the Nordiques with a first-period 2-0 lead, and Joe Sakic had added another in the second before Muller beat Ron Hextall only seconds into the final period.
Was this to be the beginning of yet another Canadiens comeback – the stuff that led them to victories over some of the National Hockey League garage-league teams?
Not on this night. Not when the Nordiques came armed, as a team, and it was left to Rucinsky and the brilliant Mats Sundin to round off the corners to this romp with goals.
How much did they talk behind those closed doors about Quebec goaltender Hextall, who stopped 35 Canadiens shots?
Were there any words for and about Patrick Roy, who didn’t stop five of Quebec’s 31?
Oh, there surely must have been a lot to talk about, but in the final analysis, all that mattered last night was the splendid performance by the Nordiques, as a team – in every area. They were superior offensively, of course, while goaltender Hextall was handling the defence. And where they excelled, as well, was in the matter of discipline.
The Canadiens, you see, took penalties until it hurt, which is why three of the five Quebec goals were on the power play. The Sakic goal came while the Nordiques enjoyed a two-man advantage.
If the Canadiens’ first period sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for it.
It’s nine minutes into the game and Rucinsky sweeps in on Roy with a backhander which catches the top of the net.
Then, in the final minute of the period, Kovalenko catches the net after a Sakic pass – and it’s the dangerous game all over again.
Isn’t that what coach Jacques Demers has been delivering sermons about for too many weeks?
Down two, and it’s catchup hockey. Down two against the weak teams and good things still can happen. They can still happen against the strong teams, like Quebec – but only if a guy can find the spare inches on either side of Hextall, who was on another planet on this night.
Hextall wasn’t merely very good: he owned the Canadiens. He stopped ‘em short and long. Once, while the Canadiens held a two- man advantage, Hextall stopped Brian Bellows on three of the five second-period shots Ol’ Beebee had. Is that frustration, or what?
Put it this way: Bellows was in a position to fill his pockets when the Nordiques were short-handed two men for 64 seconds – and was left empty. The Canadiens had four shots during that time and a chap named Vincent Damphousse hit the post and – nothing.
The biggest, if not the only reason: Hextall.
This was the Hextall who had lifted Philadelphia teams to another level in the long ago past. There he was, sprawling, leaping, catching and, most of all, stopping everything tossed at him.
Hextall was everything – but he had company. Lots of it.
The Canadiens players had meetings.
(Gazette file photo)