TORONTO — What happened on the ice Monday night at Scotiabank Arena during a preseason game between the Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs will soon be forgotten.
The Canadiens lost 3-0 to the Leafs, but it was only the second of eight exhibition games for the Canadiens, who return to action Thursday when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Center. (7pm TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
But what happened on the ice before Monday night’s game was special and very memorable.
On the 50th anniversary of Paul Henderson scoring the series-winning goal for Canada against the Soviet Union in the 1972 Summit Series, players from the Canadiens and Leafs walked out wearing replica red and white team Canada sweaters from that series and lined up on their respective blue lines. After that, 11 members of that 1972 Canada team took to the ice, including Henderson, who played for the Leafs, and five players who won the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens: Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Ken Dryden, Peter Mahovlich, and Frank Mahovlich. (who also played for Toronto and won four Cups with the Leafs).
They were joined by Ron Ellis, a teammate of Henderson’s with the Leafs, Eddie Johnston, Rod Seiling, Red Berenson and Dennis Hull.
He would have expected Team Canada’s heroes to have received a much longer and louder ovation, but then he remembers that the game was at the Scotiabank Arena, which has a reputation for being a quiet corporate club.
Or maybe the fans in attendance were too young to know much about the Summit Series.
Either way, it was a shame.
Returning to the actual game on the ice, Nicholas Robertson, Denis Malgin and Nick Abruzzese scored for the Leafs as the Canadiens saw their preseason record drop to 0-2.
A young defense and goalkeeping are two big question marks for the Canadiens heading into this season.
Chris Wideman was the only veteran defender the Canadiens wore, along with Corey Schueneman, Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris, Otto Leskinen and Justin Barron, while Samuel Montembeault started in goal.
Robertson opened the scoring at 6:53 of the first period with a short, poorly angled shot that went past Montembeaults’ legs. The goalie has to make that save and it was a reminder that Montembeault had a 3.77 goals-against average last season and a .891 save percentage.
The good news for Canadiens fans is that it was the only goal Montembeault allowed on the 15 shots he faced over the first 31:10 of the game before being replaced by Kevin Poulin.
Poulin had no chance on Malgin’s power play goal at 19:15 of the second period, a stopwatch from the slot, with Xhekaj in the penalty area for holding. Abruzzese added a second power-play goal for the Leafs at 16:34 of the third period when he was left alone at the side of the net with Emil Heineman in the box for a hitch.
The boring game with so many prospects in the lineup for both teams was a reminder of why it should be a crime to charge regular-season prices for tickets to NHL preseason games.
But the pregame ceremony might have been worth the price.
Former Montreal Gazette sports columnist Michael Farber likes to say, “Only two institutions in Western civilization really understand the ceremony: the House of Windsor and the Montreal Canadiens.”
With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Canadiens to pay another tribute to the heroes of the 1972 Canada team before the regular season opener on October 12 at the Bell Center when the Maple Leafs will be in Montreal.
You can almost hear the roaring standing ovation already.
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