Mike Vernon outshined Patrick Roy in a duel of rookie goaltenders tonight as the Calgary Flames won the opener of the Stanley Cup finals from the Montreal Canadiens, 5-2.
Vernon stopped 22 shots and made two outstanding saves when Montreal threatened to double the early lead it had gained on a power-play goal by Mats Naslund.
That crisis weathered, the Flames bounced back to win on goals by John Tonelli, Jim Peplinski, Dan Quinn, Lanny McDonald and Doug Risebrough. Calgary actually seemed to wear down Montreal in the late stages, although the Canadiens had been resting for a week, while the Flames did not finish off St. Louis until Wednesday.
Peplinski's tie-breaker with 49 seconds left in the first period was hotly disputed by Roy, who grabbed one linesman and pushed the other, contending that the puck had been deflected into the net with a high stick. Roy seemed a bit shaky thereafter, but he shut out Calgary until Quinn's shorthanded goal broke it open early in the third period.
Quinn and McDonald scored on the Flames' first two shots of that period to make it 4-1 and give the 16,762 fans an opportunity for an early celebration. Chris Chelios scored a token Montreal goal with 2:04 left, before Risebrough completed the scoring into an empty net.
Peplinski had his stick well up in the air when he got it on a drive from the right point by Al MacInnis, deflecting the puck downward past Roy, who had been prepared for a high shot.
Linesman Ron Finn, the closest official, immediately signaled that the deflection had been chest high, a ruling confirmed by referee Kerry Fraser. Roy grabbed Finn by the arm and Finn put his hands to his hips, an indication of a misconduct penalty. When the other linesman, Ray Scapinello, tried to calm Roy, the goalie shoved him away.
Roy's misconduct was served by John Kordic, and Roy was allowed to remain in the game. Later, he complained bitterly about the call.
"It's really tough to work hard and have a bad goal allowed like that," Roy said. "They should look at the video in such an important game. You don't want to lose on something like that. I see the puck very high and the guy hit it up there. I was sure the goal was not good."
Asked about his contact with the linesmen, Roy said: "Maybe I make a bad thing, but I had reason to be upset. I'd better not talk about that."
Asked where his stick was at the time of contact, Peplinski said, "On the puck." Then he added, "I would say within the rules which specify shoulder height by six inches to a foot."
Of the key goal, Peplinski said further: "It certainly wasn't planned. You try and get your stick on it, and sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.
"Even if they'd disallowed it, though, I think we had the momentum going into the second period. We came on strong after Montreal scored the first goal and went from there."
The scoreless second period seemed interminable, as the players bumped together after almost every stoppage in play. While the linesmen struggled to separate the battlers, Fraser chose to ignore most of the activity, and it led to a wild battle as the period ended.
"I think it's their tactic, to try to get five guys in a muddle and get on your best defensemen," said Montreal's Ryan Walter, who returned to action for the first time after he fractured his right ankle March 29. "They did it to Edmonton and St. Louis, and it's something we're aware of.
"But it's scrappy hockey, too. There's anxiety there. We hadn't played for a week, and they wanted to do something, too."
Quinn's goal, Calgary's fifth shorthanded score of the playoffs, was a backbreaker to the Canadiens. It also was redemption for Quinn, who fanned at the finish of a three-on-one with an open net beckoning late in the second period.
Steve Bozek was off for cross checking early in the third period when Quinn picked off a pass by Chelios in center ice and broke down the left wing, one on one against Larry Robinson. Quinn managed to unload a shot that slipped past Roy's into the far corner of the net.
Rick Green, who has recovered from an inner-ear infection, broke up a Calgary three-on-one after Bozek left the penalty box, but on the faceoff that followed, Peplinski kicked the puck to Nick Fotiu, who relayed it to McDonald for a clinching drive down the slot.
Montreal threatened to put the game away early, as some pinpoint passing freed Naslund along the goal line and he moved in unchallenged to beat Vernon with a power-play backhander.
Not long after, Calgary's Paul Reinhart gave the puck away in his own end and Vernon made back-to-back stops on Naslund and Kjell Dahlin to keep it close. Then Tonelli scored on a rebound of a shot by MacInnis with each team a man short to tie it.
"After Calgary got their first goal, it took some momentum from us," said Montreal Coach Jean Perron. "I guess we'll have to adjust. It's only the first game."
"We played very well tonight," said Calgary Coach Bob Johnson. "I think our guys were remarkable, considering the tough games Monday and Wednesday against St. Louis. I was worried about this game. I knew our minds would be there, but sometimes the legs can't do what you want them to."
Johnson shook up his lines, moving Peplinski to center on a line with Tim Hunter and Fotiu, two of his muscle men. "I was looking for enthusiasm and I think I got it," Johnson said. "And that line grabbed a lot of loose pucks and created opportunities."
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series will be played here Sunday. Perron said, "We'll have to play better as a team on Sunday. That's it."