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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Retro Diary: Canada Cup Final 1987 - Game 3

Mario Lemieux goal Canada Cup
It all came down to this. Canada vs. the Soviet Union. At stake? Only world domination (at least on the ice).

Canada got off to a rocky start and initially looked like they were on the verge of being blown out. But a little bit of Canadian gumption helped the team pick themselves off the mat and eventually back into the game.

Like the other two games in the series, game three was a classic, and goes down in history as one of the best hockey games of all time.


Pre-game

- The CTV broadcast starts off by playing "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight" on endless repeat. I thought they would have chosen something by Glass Tiger because Alan Frew is inescapable at these big patriotic events.

- The Soviets are going back to the game one winner, Sergei Mylnikov, in net tonight. He hasn't lost a game this tournament and has a 2.36 GAA.

- Don Koharski is the referee again tonight. I remember as a kid he had a sports complex in Mississauga that had mini putt, batting cages, a small, iceless hockey rink, among other awesome sports things, and it was always the best when people had their birthday parties there. I googled to see if it is still around, but alas it is gone.

- Wayne Gretzky and Vyacheslav Fetisov start the game by exchanging gifts in the honour of sportsmanship or something bogus. I hope Gretzky gave him a jersey laced with small pox.

1st period

1-0 Soviets - Canada starts with Mark Messier between Mario Lemieux and Gretzky, which surely means nothing bad can happen, yet the Soviets stun the crowd with a goal 26 seconds into the game. Gretzky gets checked in the corner and Doug Crossman waits for the pass around the net to come to him. Vladimir Krutov has no time for Crossman's time wasting, so he steps in between and picks off the pass and throws it in front to a wide open Sergei Makarov. If this was the ACC the Gucci crowd wouldn't have even had enough time to get their sushi, let alone find their seats.

- Dale Hawerchuk is out there with Brent Sutter on a grind line. Yes, the career 500+ goal scorer is playing on a checking line because Canada is so stacked at forward.

- Grant Fuhr makes a save and swats the rebound away like Mr. Perfect swats away his gum.

- Thank god for the new icing rules. The Soviets are under pressure and are content to just throw it down the ice. It's amazing that a simple rule change like denying the defensive team a line change after an icing can create such a better game.

- The Canadians go on the power play, which so far in the series has meant surrendering a goal, and create a bounty of chances. The passing is sublime. The puck is going cross ice, point-to-point, between the legs, but no matter how nice of an opportunity is created, Mylnikov is there to shut the door.

2-0 Soviets - Paul Coffey inexplicably pinches and it's a 2-on-1 for the Soviets. Alexei Gusarov lets a rocket of a shot go and the slapper beats Fuhr upstairs. It isn't a shorthanded goal, but only by a few seconds.

- Canada is actually up 5-3 in shots, but the Soviets are the ones winning.

3-0 Soviets - Make that 5-4 in shots, but the Soviets are shooting at a 75% clip (just wait until that regresses to the mean!) This is a beautiful goal, as Sergei Makarov has a wizardly play, skating around a couple of muggles and going from backhand to forehand to beat Fuhr.

- The Soviets are like gorillas coming out of a cage. I'm thinking, 'uh oh.'

- This is shades of 1981 flashing before the crowd's eyes. In 1981 the Soviets spanked Canada 8-1 in the Canada Cup final, a drubbing even worse than the 7-3 beat down Canada gave the Soviets in the final round robin game of that tournament.

- Copps Coliseum sounds like a morgue.

- It only takes one shift from Gretzky and Lemieux to resurrect the dead and the crowd is back in the game. The two nearly combine for a goal as some good passing in the zone leaves Gretzky free beside the net. Lemieux tries to feed it to him, but Gretzky has to pick the puck out of mid-air. He's almost immediately swarmed and can't put the puck in the open net by the time he gets it to his stick.

- The Soviets take a penalty as Gretzky takes a huge dive. Alex Burrows would be proud of this one. The refs don't call Gretzky because he's Gretzky, and for that I thank them.

3-1 - Messier is trying to rally the team on the bench by yelling and it works! Larry Murphy walks in from the point and the goalie can't corral the rebound. Rick Tocchet picks it up and deposits it in the net. Tocchet was doubtful for this game after missing game two with a knee injury. He convinced the medical staff he was good to go, however, and now he's scoring the biggest goal of his young career.

- Sutter takes a penalty for grabbing the Soviet player's neck and throwing him to the ground. He puts his hand up like all guilty players and is sent to the box to atone for his sins.

- Canada actually gets the first chance, but after that it's all Soviet Union. Mike Gartner has lost his stick and is chasing the puck wildly, but Canada catches a break as Craig Hartsburg basically punches Andrei Khomutov and there is a whistled blown...not for a penalty, but because Khomutov stayed on the ice. He's known as the "Soviet Rat", so he's getting no sympathy from this corner.

- Canada's physicality has really ramped up and Messier drills Vladimir Krutov as he cuts across the ice. He's being pretty bad ass. If I had to choose anyone but Gretzky or Lemieux to build a team around, I think Messier would be the best bet. He's fast, plays insanely hard, he's physical, kills penalties, plays on the line (and over it), is a tremendous leader, and still managed to score the second most points of all time.

- Now Gretzky just took a run at a defenceman behind the net. Everyone is playing Canadian hockey right now, the only thing missing is a tomahawk chop to the ankle to seal the series.

3-2 - Tocchet is forechecking like crazy behind the net and causes a turnover. Sutter picks the puck up, wraps around the net and throws it on goal (just like Don Cherry always says, kids). The puck bounces off Brian Propp and with less than five minutes to play in the period Canada is more than alive.

- Messier just gave a comically unprovoked cross check to a Soviet player's face. No call, the refs were apparently buying popcorn. The Soviets must think all Canadians are barbarians.

- Speaking of barbarians, Sutter and Tocchet go to sandwich check the Soviet defenceman, but nothing goes right and Sutter drills Tocchet. How's the knee, Rick?

- A sign in the crowd says, "Hamilton: A Major League City." This makes me sad. If you only knew, person from 1987 who I presume has a dirty mullet.

4-2 - Shots are 16-8 for Canada and they are getting a power play to try and tie the game before the end of the period. The pressure is relentless and Canada is in the zone for the majority of the two minutes. As the penalty expires, however, Ray Bourque falls in his own end and Khomutov strips him of the puck, dashes in on a break and dekes around Fuhr. Agonizingly, Fuhr gets a piece, but the puck still has enough momentum to trickle in. These end of period goals are killer, I hope Canada can rally.

2nd period

- The period opens with a 2-on-1 for Gretzky and Mar- no wait, it's Rick Tocchet, who has had a whale of a game, but isn't Mario, so Gretzky's pass hops over his stick and the chance is gone.

- Keenan has broken up Gretzky and Lemieux to start the second, which seems like a really bad idea after they combined for eight points in game two, but what do I know, I'm only watching this 25 years later.

- Mike Gartner sticks his knee out at Makarov as he crosses the ice without the puck. There's the Canadian sportsmanship I've come to expect in these games. Can you imagine if Bryan Marchment played in a tournament like this? You'd have to hire a doctor to perform reconstructive knee surgery at ice level.

- One good knee deserves another, as Gusarov sticks out his knee at a speeding Hawerchuk. Canada doesn't put up with such shit, however, and Normand Rochefort decks Gusarov behind the play, out of the camera and the referee's eye.

- Amidst all the cheap shots, there are plenty of clean, hard checks being thrown. Hartsburg just about kills Yuri Khmylev.

- I just saw an empty seat in the crowd and pray to god someone just really had to go to the bathroom. How could you miss a game like this?

- According to Gretzky to Lemieux: The Story of the 1987 Canada Cup by Ed Willes, scalpers were getting between $200 to $400 for a pair of tickets to the deciding game. In today's dollars, that's between $350 to $705, which seems like a steal considering at the Vancouver Olympics scalpers were charging $800 to $900 for two seats in the upper bowl and no less than $2400 for two seats in the lower bowl. Scalpers are scum, so let's move on.

4-3 - Canada cuts the lead once more. Gretzky, the lazy bum, finally goes to work in his office, and finds Murphy sneaking down low. At that point, it's hammer time and the Canadians are back within one.

4-4 - Less than two minutes later and the game is tied. Hawerchuk needs to get some work done, so he rents out Gretzky's office and finds Sutter in the slot. Sutter's shot goes high glove side, which the announcers tell us is Mylnikov's weakness. FORESHADOWING ALERT.

- The crowd is back, going crazy, and someone throws something on the ice. Since this isn't Toronto I'm assuming it isn't a waffle.

- Lemieux just takes a dumb penalty behind the play, a retaliatory slash. On the ensuing penalty kill, Gartner drops to block a slapper from the point which is exactly why owners must hate these "meaningless" games in September, but is why fans love them. These guys care!

- The diving is getting a little out of control now as Khomutov almost nails the triple axel and is called "Greg Louganis" by the announcers. Koharski looks at him and then looks away disgusted. He isn't falling for that garbage.

- Canada is back on the attack now. Gretzky and Lemieux have a 2-on-1, this time with Gretzky as the trigger man, but the defenceman and the goalie smell it out and the shot is stopped.

- Later on Gretzky puts in some overtime at the office and finds Murphy sneaking in from the point again. He has a wide open net but Fetisov sprawls out to bail his team out.

5-4 Canada - The dam doesn't hold forever, however, as Hawerchuk stampedes in the Soviet zone and blasts a slap shot that knocks Mylnikov back into the net. You can almost see the birds fluttering around Mylnikov's head. Sutter clears the way for Hawerchuk to pick up the rebound behind the net and the Soviets somehow afford him two whacks on the wraparound. Just like that Canada is ahead.

- The grinders are really carrying this team at this point. Gretzky and Lemieux had game two, the grinders have game three. As the announcers put it, "The artistry isn't there, but the excitement still is."

- Bourque takes a penalty for high sticking, which really is code word for "cross checking to the face" in this instance.

- There's a broken stick in the corner on the power play and it's the first I've seen in three games. These days, you hardly go three shifts without someone's stick imploding.

- Bourque comes out of the penalty box only to head right back in. This time it isn't totally his fault, however, as the Soviet player took a huge dive. Although, admittedly, Bourque was hooking him. That doesn't matter to Lemieux, though, because he is livid and is letting the referee know he's an idiot.

3rd period

- The period starts with the announcers telling us "if it was anybody but Grant Fuhr, he would have been taken out of the game" after the Canadians fell behind 3-0.

- Tocchet drills Gusarov, who doesn't have the puck, but was directly in front of the guy who did, so I think it's a legal hit, and somehow the referee does too.

- Gretzky starts handing out gifts, first setting up Coffey then Murphy. But Mylnikov isn't in a similarly giving spirit and takes away the two chances.

- Canada is all over the Soviets now, and Gretzky gets his own chance, but his backhand misses the net wide. That was at the end of two minute shift, and Gretzky still had the energy to get off a great chance.

- Keenan sat both Gretzky and Lemieux for long stretches of the second, because both were dead tired from playing essentially all of game two, and it's paying off now. Both have a jump not seen earlier in the game.

5-5 - A big Canadian breakdown. Lomakin picks up the puck in the corner and Hartsburg doesn't take Alexander Semak in front of the net and we have ourselves another tied hockey game.

- The Canadians rally with a strong shift and Tocchet levels another Soviet. He looks like the strongest guy out there and he's playing on a wonky knee.

- There's five minutes left and I estimate Gretzky and Lemieux will only leave the ice if dragged off by the zamboni.

- Hawerchuk has a great chance after flying down the wing, cutting inside, and letting a good shot go. Mylnikov stabs it with his blocker, and with a little over three and a half minutes to play, we're basically in overtime now.

- With 2:36 remaining, the Soviets call a timeout during the middle of a Gretzky shift. This seems like a dangerous time to take a timeout as it gives Gretzky a breather, but Keenan decides to take Gretzky off and get him ready for the final two minutes.

- Gartner steals from behind the net and feeds Anderson, who is denied. The play goes the other way and Coffey flips the puck out of danger, but it has too much force and is called on the icing. With 1:36 left to play, the Soviets have a crucial offensive zone faceoff and Coffey could be the goat.

- Hey, remember when the announcers said last game that the Soviets don't view the faceoff as a tactical tool. Well, that's going to bite them in the ass right now.

- Hawerchuk, Lemieux, and Gretzky are all on the ice—three natural centres. I'm pretty sure Canada is prepared to win this thing. After the faceoff Lemieux wins a battle along the boards and chips the puck out of the zone. He feeds it to Gretzky and Canada has a 3-on-1. With Murphy going hard to the net, Lemieux trailing, Gretzky has plenty of options. Wait, let's be real, the puck is going to Lemieux. As the defenceman falls to block Gretzky's pass to Murphy (seriously, buddy, that was never going to happen), the Great One drops it back and Lemieux has a clear path to the net. Lemieux picks the corner high glove side and we have one of the most iconic goals in hockey history.

- "Gretzky loads the gun, Lemieux pulls the trigger," as the announcers put it.

- Do I have to say the crowd is going bonkers?

- With 1:26 to play the Soviets still have time to tie the game, and we see a shot of Gretzky on the bench talking to Anderson, tasked with closing out the game. Presumably, this is how the conversation went: "Don't fuck this up, Glenn."

- For some reason the video quality is now markedly worse. I can only assume in the pandemonium some crazed fan has destroyed some crucial piece of equipment. Oh wait, this isn't Vancouver, so the likelihood of property destruction is low.

- Anderson almost scores on a 2-on-1, and Gretzky is probably thinking to himself, "man, he's fucking it up."

- The Soviets have decided not to pull the goalie, because I guess they figure regulation time lasts for four periods in Canada.

- Elsewhere, Messier blocks two Fetisov slappers from the point and the crowd takes us home, counting, "FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE!!!!!!!!!!!"

- Canada ends the game outshooting the Soviets 46-23.

- A random guy with a moustache and a plaid shirt has joined the team celebration on the ice. He's either a Sutter brother or a drunken fan. Most likely, he's both.

- "May we never hear another word about Mario Lemieux's ability or desire again," the announcers say. That's right, heading into this tournament people actually doubted whether Mario was a true successor to Gretzky because he hadn't been able to lift the Penguins to the playoffs in his first three seasons (he wouldn't until his fifth). People are truly idiots.

- Players of the game are Vyacheslav Fetisov for the USSR and Dale Hawerchuk for Canada. Rick Tocchet is the Five Minutes for Fighting Underrated Player of the Game.

- Allan Eagleson is presenting the Canada Cup trophy and he's being booed like he's Gary Bettman. These fans don't even know he's pilfering money from the players at every chance he gets and they already hate him. He takes a while to let Gretzky take the trophy, presumably because he's wondering if he'll get more money by pawning it or melting it down and selling the nickel.

- The players each get a chance to parade around with the trophy and Michael Burgess comes back out to sing the Canadian national anthem, which might just be the most demoralizing part of losing for the Soviets. The crowd helps him sing it and all is right with the world.

Scoring Summary

0:26 - Sergei Makarov 7 (Vladimir Krutov)
7:04 - Alexei Gusarov 1
8:00 - Viacheslav Fetisov 2 (Sergei Makarov)
9:50 - Rick Tocchet 3 (Larry Murphy, Michel Goulet)
15:23 - Brian Propp 2 (Brent Sutter, Rick Tocchet)
19:32 - Andrei Khomutov 4
29:30 - Larry Murphy 1 (Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky)
31:06 - Brent Sutter 1 (Doug Crossman, Dale Hawerchuk)
35:32 - Dale Hawerchuk 4 (Brian Propp, Larry Murphy)
52:21 - Alexander Semak 3 (Andrei Lomakin)
58:34 - Mario Lemieux 11 (Wayne Gretzky)

Penalties: USSR: 10 min, Canada: 6 min
Shots: USSR: 23, Canada: 46

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Along with a little gumption add a "little luck".
First, Koharski's skate blocks a pass from the boards from Makarov headed for a breaking Krutov but instead picked up by Canada and ended in the net. Then there's the goal off Propp's skate that the flailing Flyer didn't even see go in.

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