MONTREAL – It was a wild but one-sided battle that recalled some nasty nights in the glory years of the Montreal Canadiens-Toronto Maple Leafs rivalry of the 1960s.
All it was missing was old-timer brawlers John Ferguson and Eddie Shack providing the fireworks. “It was like an old Canadiens-Quebec Nordiques game, too,” said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau after his team downed the slumping Leafs 6-2 on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
Sergei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse scored in the first period and Alex Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Max Pacioretty added goals for Montreal (24-10-6), which has won three games in a row despite a rash of injuries. Montreal is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and has scored six goals in each of its last three contests.
Tomas Kaberle, with his third of the season and first since Nov. 13, and Matt Stajan scored for Toronto (16-19-6), which has lost six of its last eight.
The lopsided result continued a trend between the teams this season. Montreal won 6-1 in Toronto on Oct. 11 and the Leafs paid them back 6-3 at the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 8.
“I think our team remembered that loss in Toronto,” added Carbonneau. “Now, everything is going good for us.
“Earlier in the season, we were having trouble against teams below us in the standings and we didn’t want that to happen again.”
The Canadiens scored five times on 21 shots on Vesa Toskala, who was replaced by Curtis Joseph to start the third period.
The game was marked by numerous skirmishes and shoving matches, which referees Tim Peel and Chris Ciamaga tried unsuccessfully to control by issuing eight 10-minute misconducts, four to each side.
After Kovalev scored 6:20 into the second frame for a 4-1 lead, two pairs of misconducts were called. Then the fights started, with Jamal Mayers laying a beating on Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos and Francis Bouillon engaging a free-swinging bout with newly acquired Leaf Brad May.
“I didn’t really like the way the game was officiated,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. “We were on the receiving end in some scrums where we had guys getting thrown in the box for 10 minutes.
“And it actually it was three of our better hockey players who had to spend a lot of time for not really doing anything.”
The Leafs are expected to be a more physical team under new general manager Brian Burke, who likes tough hockey and who had his first acquisition, the hard-nosed May, in the lineup for the first time.
But Wilson wasn’t crazy about what he saw from his team.
“It seemed to make some of our guys uncomfortable when we got physical, to be honest with you,” added Wilson. “We had a lot of guys answer the bell and I’m happy for that, but we still need more effort from a lot of guys, unfortunately.”
In a 1:25 stretch midway through the second, 62 penalty minutes were called. A total of 140 minutes were called in the game.
“We got the lead early and they tried to change the momentum,” said Lapierre, who was in the midst of several shoving and shouting matches. “But our guys kept their focus.
“It’s a big rivalry between these teams. I think it’s great hockey.”
Late in game, there was shouting between the benches as Andre Deveaux and Lapierre were penalized. Then former Canadien Mikhail Grabovski, who was booed each time he touched the puck, and Sergei Kostitsyn tried to get at each other but were restrained with great difficulty by the officials. Both players looked to push their luck in terms of drawing fines or suspensions for shoving linesmen.
The grudge runs deep between the former friends and fellow natives of Belarus. The two were also at each other the last time the teams met.
Asked if the feud will resume when the teams meet again on Feb. 7 in Montreal, Kostitsyn said “yes.”
Kostitsyn got Montreal going with a power play goal 2:35 into the game and Lapierre stepped out of the penalty box, skated in alone and beat Toskala at 4:59.
Dominic Moore won a faceoff back to Kaberle for a low point blast that beat Jaroslav Halak on a power play at 7:55, but with 53 seconds left in the period, Latendresse was left uncovered in front to convert a pass from Kostopoulos. Patrice Brisebois had three assists in the period.
Kovalev beat Toskala over the right shoulder at 6:20 and Andrei Kostitsyn, who had a goal and two assists, tipped in a Robert Lang pass on a power play at 18:53. The rookie Pacioretty was alone in front to beat Joseph 12:08 into the third on a feed from Kovalev for his second goal in his first four NHL games.
With 1:30 left, Stajan banged in a shot from the slot to celebrate his return after missing five games with an eye injury.
Halak is 4-1 in five straight starts since No. 1 goalie Carey Price went down with a lower body injury.
May skated on a line with John Mitchell and Mayers.
Notes – Old-timers from both organizations were honoured at centre ice before the game, with Wendel Clark, Borje Salming, Johnny Bower, Darryl Sittler and Felix Potvin from the Leafs and Steve Shutt, Guy Lapointe, Peter Mahovlich, Phil Goyette and Jean Beliveau, who got a standing ovation, for Montreal. Also there wearing a Canadiens jersey was Vincent Damphousse, who played for both teams. . . A scoreboard tribute was paid to three players in attendance from Canada’s gold medal team from the world junior Championship – Angelo Esposito, Chris Di Domenico and Patrice Cormier – and coaches Guy Boucher and Fred Chabot.. . Defenceman Yannick Weber played his first NHL game for Montreal at forward, while Steve Begin sat out with a cold. . .Jeremy Williams, Ryan Hollweg and Jamie Sifers didn’t dress for Toronto.