Monday, 3 June 2013

Today in Habs History: June 3rd Edition

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Eric Desjardins (right) celebrates his secind of three goals, in Game Two of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. (Photo: SI/Getty Images)

1993: It’s amazing how a matter of inches can effect the course of any sporting event. A putt in golf that breaks just a fraction to miss a birdie, ad run to the goaline in football that is stopped short right on the line. In hockey, a simple deflection or borderline offside call can be commonplace for fans. But a stick measurement, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals only happens, well…once.
The Los Angeles Kings were holding a one-game lead in their best-of-seven series against the Montreal Canadiens. A second win at the Forum would certainly put the Kings and it’s group of future Hall of Famers (Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Jari Jurri, etc.) in the driver's seat.

Kings’ defenseman Marty McSorely is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he had a serious impact for the Kings as Gretzky’s protector on the ice and was a serious agitator in the Campbell Conference Finals, against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“McSorely is an impact player,” said Canadiens coach Jacques Demers, between Games One and Two. “He can do it to you any way. If you want to fight him, he’ll go. He’s physical, he comes up with good defensive plays. He joins the offense. We have to understand that McSorely is on the other side, but we’re not going to intimidate him.”

At the time, nobody would think that the Kings’ defenceman’s stick would be a pivotal item in the Cup Finals.

After the Canadiens took a 1-0 lead, on a goal by Eric Desjardins at 18:31 of the first period. Los Angeles replied with a pair of goals, with Dave Taylor breaking away shorthanded at 5:12 of the second period and Pat Conacher finding a loose puck in front of Patrick Roy at 8:32 of the third.

The to everyone's surprise, at 18:15 of the third period, Demers asked referee Kerry Fraser for a measurement of McSorely’s stick. Fraser made the measurement, found the stick to be over the legal curve limit, and sent the Kings rearguard to the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct. According to director of officiating Brian Lewis, the stick was “a good quarter inch,” over the legal limit.

“We were dead. We didn’t want to go down 2-0,” Demers said post-game. “I never like to embarrass a man who has so much pride like Marty. I just do my job. We just did what we had to do.”

The question always has been, how did the Canadiens know to check for the stick?

McSorely and the Kings claim that the Canadiens pulled their opponents stick rack into their locker room and spotted the illegal blade. "That was an awfully gutsy call without having any information," McSorley said in a 2012 interview, as the Kings were about to make their second trip to the Cup Finals.

Montreal coach Jacques Demers claimed in a 2006 interview with USA Today that captain Guy Carbonneau and assistant captain Kirk Muller had noted it both on the ice and in the hallway prior to the start of the series, where both teams kept their sticks.

With Game One out of reach early, courtesy of Wayne Gretzky, Demers opted to use the knowledge in a more strategic opportunity and it paid off.

Jacques Demers calls for a measurement on Marty McSorely’s stick.

To this point, the Canadiens power-play had been on a 0 for 31 skid with the man-advantage. With goaltender Roy pulled for a six-on-four situation, it couldn’t have woken up at a better time. Desjardins would tie things up with his second gola of the evening with 1:13 remaining in regulation, on a blast from the point shot.

Fifty-one seconds into overtime, Desjardins completed his hat-trick, going five-hole on Kelly Hrudey. The series was tied at a game apiece, on Montreal’s eight straight overtime win. Desjardins became the first defenceman in NHL history to score three goals in a Stanley Cup Finals game.

Francis Bouchard found some highlights of the game, and  this ecxert from the Habs ‘93 Cup video, featuring all five goals and commentary from Demers, McSorely and Desjardins.

Also on this day…

1958: The Canadiens send Dollard St. Laurent traded to the Chicago Black Hawks for cash and future considerations (the loan of Norm Johnson, February 20, 1959). Montreal also deal Jim "Bud" MacPherson, Gene Achtymichuk and Claude Laforge traded to Detroit Red Wings for cash.

1980: Bob Berry was named new head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, replacing Claude Ruel.

Associated Press, June 3, 1993, “McSorley aids Kings’ quest for Stanley Cup”
Associated Press, June 4, 1993, “Kings get short end of the stick in loss to Canadiens”
Associated Press, May 28, 2012, “Illegal-stick penalty still plagues McSorley”

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