Lindros Helps Hold Off Canadiens
MONTREAL (CP) -- With captain Mats Sundin nursing an eye injury, Eric Lindros has stepped up for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lindros' second goal of the game 12:16 of the third period lifted the Leafs to a 3-2 NHL victory over the rival Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
He now has five goals in his first six games for Toronto.
"There's no replacing a player of Mats' calibre,'' Lindros said. "We miss him. But the last couple of games, we've done a good job of grinding some wins out.''
Lindros, a huge talent whose career has been plagued by concussions, banged the rebound of Alexander Steen's shot into an open side to break a 2-2 tie and give the 3-1-2 Leafs their second win in as many nights and their third victory in a row.
"I don't know if (Lindros' play) has picked up,'' said Toronto coach Pat Quinn. "During training camp, we lost him for a week (with an injury) and didn't really see him.
"But in the games, he's been really good. His effort is fine. He watches his position. He's conscientious. He's showing the responsibility and accountability that we were hoping we'd get.''
The Leafs were coming off a 9-1 rout of the Thrashers in Atlanta on Friday night in which they scored seven power-play goals. Jason Allison and Lindros gave them two more against Montreal.
They also got standout goaltending from Ed Belfour as Montreal outshot the Leafs 31-21.
"They're definitely a skilled club,'' Belfour said of the Canadiens. "They have a lot of guys who control the puck and make plays.
"You always have to be on your toes against them.''
Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec scored for Montreal, 4-2-0, which has four road wins but has lost both of its home games this season.
"I thought it was an even game,'' said Montreal captain Saku Koivu. "But we just can't seem to put 60 minutes together at home right now. There's always a five- or 10-minute break where we lose our focus.''
The Leafs also avenged a 5-4 loss to the Canadiens in Toronto a week earlier.
Before the game, the Canadiens introduced three of their greats of the past who are to have their jerseys retired this season -- Dickie Moore, Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion and Yvan Cournoyer -- to thunderous applause from the full house of 21,273.
Leafs coach Pat Quinn and Montreal's Claude Julien both gave Geoffrion, also a former coach, a hug as he left the ice.
As at all Leafs-Canadiens encounters, there was a large Toronto contingent in the seats that was quieted early when Alexander Perezhogin won the puck behind the net and fed Kovalev for his first goal of the season at 8:52 on a power play.
But Allison, who had four points in Atlanta, got it back when he fired Jeff O'Neill's rebound over a fallen Jose Theodore at 15:04.
The crowd booed Lindros on every shift, as they have done since he refused to play for the Quebec Nordiques in the early 1990s, but the Big E got them back with goal on a rush off a feed from Kyle Wellwood 7:42 into the second frame.
The Canadiens jumped on the fading Leafs in the third and Mike Ribeiro slipped a pass to an onrushing Plekanec to tie the game at 5:33. It was a first NHL goal for the Czech rookie.
Toronto did not get a shot on goal in the third period until 11:45, but then battled hard for a few minutes and Lindros got the game-winner.
When asked about the booing, Lindros changed the subject.
"We just popped in here, grabbed a win, and we're heading home now,'' he said.
Quinn was encouraged by a successful week after a slow start to the season.
"We knew we had some tough games right off the bat,'' he said. "Playing Montreal twice, Ottawa twice and Philadelphia.
"As many predicted, we could have ended up with no wins, so we had to battle through it. It's part of us trying to become a good team. We made some steps this week.''
Mariusz Czerkawski was back in the Toronto line-up after sitting out two games. He replaced Chad Kilger, out with an ankle contusion.
Photo by Getty Images