October 11, 2003TORONTO (CP)
- Jose Theodore looked like his Hart Trophy self Saturday night, stopping 21 shots for his 18th career shutout as the Montreal Canadiens blanked the rival Maple Leafs 4-0 in Toronto's season opener.
Mike Ribeiro, Richard Zednik and defenceman Sheldon Souray scored second-period goals while rookie Michael Ryder added a late third-period tally for the Canadiens (1-1-0-0), who looked very little like the sorry bunch that got overrun by the Ottawa Senators in their opener Thursday.
Then again, the Habs beat a Leafs squad that looked disjointed for large stretches of the game Saturday, a step behind Montreal on loose pucks and hesitant with the puck coming out of their own zone.
A moment late in the second period summed up Toronto's night, Joe Nieuwendyk - making his Leaf debut - colliding with linemate Gary Roberts at the Montreal blue-line with both players getting up rather gingerly after the embarrassing mishap.
When the Leafs did threaten, Theodore closed the door, confidently displaying the skills that made him the league's MVP two years ago. His pad save off Nieuwendyk from in-close during a Toronto power-play late in the second period was one of his best.
| Darcy Tucker looks on as the Habs celebrate the win. |
(Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The Hockey Night In Canada classic wasn't exactly that early on. There's a chance Saturday's first period was the dullest 20 minutes of hockey in the 661 regular-season meetings between the two Original Six clubs, the Leafs coming out absolutely flat after a week's rest while the Habs were more than happy to dump the puck in and wait for Toronto to make a mistake.
The game opened up in the second period and it's the Leafs that got the first scoring chance, star winger Alex Mogilny skating in alone on Theodore two minutes into the period but foiled by the netminder's blocker on a wrist shot.
The save seemed to spur on the Habs, who began to pursue the puck more aggressively in the Toronto zone and take control of the play.
Montreal broke through at 6:54, Andrei Markov's point shot going off Ribeiro and under the crossbar behind a screened Ed Belfour, igniting cheers from the hundreds of Montreal fans in the arena.
A holding penalty to Leafs forward Darcy Tucker gave Montreal its fifth power play of the night and Zednik made it count, ripping a slapshot from the top of the circle past Belfour at 12:45 to make it 2-0.
The Leafs got a power play of their own minutes later but got caught flat-footed on a turnover at the Montreal blue-line, and Joe Juneau skated away on a 2-on-1, his perfect saucer pass one-timed by a pinching Souray to give the Habs a stunning 3-0 lead with just over four minutes left in the middle period.
The Leafs left the ice at the end of the period to a chorus of boos from the 19,369 fans at Air Canada Centre, not exactly the start to the year that new GM John Ferguson was looking for.
Ryder, the pride of St. John's, Nfld., banged home a rebound with just over three minutes left in the third period to cap the scoring - recording his first NHL goal.
Notes: Habs captain and star centre Saku Koivu (knee) remained out and may not return in time for Tuesday's home opener against Washington. Forward Niklas Sundstrom (groin) was also out. ... The Capitals are here on Monday. ... The 48th Highlanders once again kicked things off in the opening ceremony. ... Maxim Kondratiev made his NHL debut for Toronto while 2002 first-rounder Chris Higgins played in his first career game for the Habs.