In a roundabout way, Montreal Canadiens Coach Jean Perron paid Steve Weeks a terrific compliment.
"I don't think Mike Liut would have made a difference tonight," Herron said after goaltender Weeks held Montreal to one score as he and the Hartford Whalers won, 2-1, on Kevin Dineen's goal at 1:07 of overtime. The outcome in front of 15,126 at the Civic Center ties the Adams Division final series at 2-2, with the fifth game scheduled for Friday in Montreal.
Liut is Hartford's top goalie, and one of the better ones in the NHL, but he watched in street clothes. In the warmup prior to Monday's 4-1 loss, Liut was hit on the inside of the right knee. He started the game but had to leave at 12:02 of the first period.
In came Weeks, who, prior to that, had not been in a playoff game since four years ago today. Weeks finished Monday's game, taking the loss, but the stint in front of live fire may have helped tonight.
Weeks, who found out this morning that he would start, kept the Canadiens off the board through 2 1/2 periods, much of the way protecting a 1-0 lead provided on a first-period goal by Stewart Gavin.
"Getting that first goal really helped," Weeks said.
And though Montreal's Mats Naslund tied it with 7:38 left in regulation off a scrambled situation, in the end it didn't matter.
For with about a minute gone in overtime, Dineen picked up a loose puck at center ice, carried into the Montreal zone, around veteran defenseman Larry Robinson and put a wrist shot past goalie Patrick Roy.
"There wasn't anybody happier to see that than I was," Weeks said of the goal.
Weeks was pleased with his game, except for the Naslund goal which he thought he should have had, but he kept it and his replacement of Liut in perspective.
"It means a lot of personal satisfaction," he said. "I'm happy we won, and I'm happy I played. But it's not over. We were down 2-1 and now it's 2-2, and it's best two out of three.
"It's not a contest with Mike, though. We're partners. Let's just win. It's not a contest. I don't feel that way and I'm sure Mike doens't. There's more than enough glory to go around."
Weeks held off the Canadiens in the early part of the first period when Hartford had no offense to speak of.
But that trend came to an abrupt end at 13:53, when the Whalers went ahead, 1-0, on their third and fourth shots of the period.
The Canadiens had set up in the Hartford end, but Dean Evason intercepted a pass and fed Sylvain Turgeon in the neutral zone. The Whalers' left wing got behind Montreal defenseman Chris Chelios, who tried to come from the other side, and went in alone on Roy. Turgeon moved the puck as he cut across the front of the goal and waited for the tall (6-foot) goalie to go down.
Roy got a piece of the shot with his glove, but the puck bounced over his body and was on its way toward the net when Gavin finished things off.
It remained 1-0 -- in great part because the Canadiens couldn't put the puck on the net with their shots -- until Naslund's goal in the third.
It could have signaled the end of the Whalers. But the team, which was also missing its best defenseman Dave Babych because of a groin injury, held together.
"This team showed a lot of character," said captain Ron Francis. "We'd certainly like to have Mike and Dave in the lineup. It'd be real easy to give the excuse that you're missing your best goaltender and best defenseman and just fold. But we didn't."
Then, before anybody, including the principal player, knew it, the game was over.
"I just took control of the puck," said Dineen, "went around Robinson and the next thing I knew it was in the net."