Brian Skrudland's goal at nine seconds of sudden-death overtime lifted the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames tonight and evened the Stanley Cup final at a game apiece. Game 3 is Tuesday in Montreal.
Skrudland converted a two-on-one feed from Mike McPhee for his first playoff goal as the Canadiens completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit. It was the fastest overtime goal in Stanley Cup history, two seconds quicker than the one scored by J.P. Parise of the New York Islanders against the New York Rangers in 1975.
The game-tying goal early in the third period was a milestone, too. It was the first NHL goal for Montreal winger Dave Maley, a former Wisconsin player who was recruited by Bob Johnson before Johnson left the Badgers to come to Calgary.
Although they fell behind by two goals in the first 21 minutes, the Canadiens had a territorial edge in every period and outshot the Flames, 35-22. But Calgary goalie Mike Vernon made some big stops and had considerable help from his goal posts.
Montreal's Chris Nilan hit two posts in the same sequence with two minutes left in regulation. First he hit the post with a long shot off a drop pass from Bobby Smith. The Canadiens maintained possession and, after Vernon blocked a shot by Larry Robinson, Nilan fired the rebound off the post once again.
"I was disappointed with the posts," Nilan said. "The first, I just tried to let it go, but the second I tried to put it on the net. Maybe I should talk to the posts like [goalie] Patrick [Roy] does."
Despite the bad luck, the Canadiens had a positive outlook when the sudden-death period began.
"It was frustrating for Chris Nilan, but we knew we were getting our chances," Skrudland said. "You're tense going out in overtime and a little uptight, but Mike McPhee said, 'Just make sure if there's a goal it's not against us.' We weren't thinking score, just trying to do our job."
Skrudland won the faceoff from Doug Risebrough as the overtime began and drew the puck back to Mike Lalor. He sent it ahead, and it bounced past two Flames to Claude Lemieux, who relayed it to McPhee on the right wing. McPhee faked the lone defender, Al MacInnis, to the ice, freezing Vernon at the same time, and put a perfect pass on Skrudland's stick in front of the net for a tap-in.
"Mike made a fantastic pass," Skrudland said. "He faked a shot and put the defenseman down. He could have shot the puck himself, but he gave it to me instead. All I did was redirect the puck after he put it on my stick."
"It was a two-on-one and basically I was taking the shooter," Vernon said. "McPhee wound up and sort of froze me. I tried to get over, but it all just happened too fast."
Skrudland, although a rookie, has been a dogged checker and a team leader, and his teammates buried him with congratulatory embraces.
"A more deserving guy couldn't possibly have gotten the winning goal," Nilan said. "Brian Skrudland works like a dog every night."
The Flames jumped in front at 9:06 of the first period on John Tonelli's 35th Stanley Cup goal. Joe Mullen pried the puck off the right-wing boards in center ice and sent a rinkwide pass to Tonelli, who made an outside move around defenseman Gaston Gingras and hit the far corner from the left-wing circle.
Calgary had chances to add to its lead before the period ended, but Roy made outstanding stops on Paul Reinhart and Dan Quinn.
The Canadiens dug themselves a hole with overlapping penalties to Skrudland for high sticking and Guy Carbonneau for roughing, giving the Flames a two-man advantage for 95 seconds. However, Mullen three times failed to convert setups at the left post, and Montreal escaped the trap created when Carbonneau punched Lanny McDonald after McDonald had grabbed him by the throat.
A penalty to Smith carried over to the second period, and the Flames boosted their lead to 2-0 just 15 seconds into the period.
Reinhart, normally a point man, took a headman pass from McDonald at the Montreal blue line, behind defenders Rick Green and Lalor. On the breakaway, he lifted the puck over the falling Roy.
Gingras, at a disadvantage on Tonelli's goal because he is a lefthanded shooter and was on the off side on the right, atoned for his error by halving the Canadiens' deficit on a fine unassisted rush at 3:45 of the second period.
Gingras carried the puck from center ice past the Flames and put a flashy inside move on the last defender, Neil Sheehy. Cutting into the slot, Gingras launched a shot as he was going down, and it sailed under the crossbar.
Nilan was behind Vernon and the goalie accused him of interference, but referee Andy Van Hellemond ruled that Nilan had been knocked into the crease by Reinhart.
Vernon maintained the lead through the second period, making a remarkable save on McPhee. Roy was sharp, too, and the Flames could have moved two up except for his sensational stop on Mike Eaves.
Maley, playing only his fourth playoff game, tied it at 3:30 of the third period. Carbonneau, playing despite a groin pull, carried the puck down the right wing against Jamie Macoun and managed to send a centering pass to Maley in front.
Maley, who had a step on Jim Peplinski, lost the puck in his skates, then got enough of his stick on it to shove it past Vernon.
"It went off my skate, but I kicked it up and got a shot off," Maley said. "I was just trying to get some wood on it. I was fortunate to score, but I've been getting chances. They tend to shadow the big scorers and leave guys like me alone."