MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens are one victory away from winning their 23rd Stanley Cup.
Rookie right wing Claude Lemieux scored an unassisted goal with 8 minutes 50 seconds left in the third period Thursday night at the Montreal Forum to give the Canadiens a 1-0 win over the Calgary Flames before a crowd of 18,076.
The Canadiens, who have a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series, can clinch their first National Hockey League championship since 1979 Saturday night in Game 5 at Calgary.
"We're 60 minutes away from the Stanley Cup," Montreal rookie defenseman John Kordic said. "Guys like Marcel Dionne have played a lot longer than I have and have never been that close to a Cup."
The game was marred at the end by a bench-clearing brawl, during which Lemieux bit the finger of Calgary left wing Jim Peplinski. The ice was red from all the blood.
"I know I didn't get a piece of it (Peplinski's finger) in my mouth," Lemieux said. "But I think I broke my tooth on it. I guess when you fight, you don't know what you do.
"I didn't want to fight, but they came after me. I think I did a pretty good job. I think he (Peplinski) will remember me."
Said Peplinski of Lemieux: "He's a good hockey player, I'll give him that. But it's a little frustrating when he tries to bite your finger off."
Calgary Coach Bob Johnson said: "I didn't see how it started. Lemieux bit Peplinski's finger. They've got it on tape, and it's pretty clear. I'm not sure, do you have to get a (penalty) shot after something like that?"
Apparently not, but the NHL announced after the game that Brian O'Neill, the league's executive vice president, will make an announcement today regarding the melee. It's possible that O'Neill will suspend or fine the players involved.
Referee Andy van Hellemond assessed eight game-misconduct penalties, four on each team, among the 142 minutes in penalties resulting from the fight.
Lemieux and teammates Chris Chelios, Guy Carbonneau and Mike Lalor each received game-misconduct penalties. Four Flames also got game misconducts--Peplinski, Paul Baxter, Steve Bozek and John Tonelli.
The players had different versions of how the fight started, but it appeared that it was touched off when Tonelli high-sticked Lalor behind the Montreal net just after the game ended. Chelios then went after Baxter, and separate skirmishes flared up all over the ice.
Said Montreal defenseman Kordic, who got a black eye and a swollen jaw from battling Tim Hunter, the Flames' designated thug: "Everyone wanted to look like a hero and a tough guy. I was just looking for (Hunter) because he's their tough guy."
Montreal Coach Jean Perron: "It was most unfortunate. These sorts of things shouldn't happen. The players should go off the ice at the end of the game."
Lemieux, who spent most of the season in the minors, has been a hero for Montreal in the playoffs. Four of the 10 postseason goals he has scored have been game-winners. He needs one more game-winning goal to tie the NHL record set by Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders in the 1983 playoffs.
Lemieux broke a scoreless tie when he intercepted a clearing pass by Calgary center Doug Risebrough, a former Canadien, in the Calgary zone and put a 30-foot shot through the legs of goalie Mike Vernon.
Surprisingly, the Flames waited until there were just 18 seconds left in the game to pull Vernon for an extra skater in an attempt to tie the game.
Montreal goalie Patrick Roy became the eighth rookie to record a shutout in the Stanley Cup final.
Calgary had a good chance to tie it when defenseman Al MacInnis took a shot from the blue line, but Roy made a nifty glove save to seal the win.
Montreal played a tight, close-checking defense, limiting the Flames to 15 shots, including only two in the second period.
"I had a shutout, but I only had to play really well in the first period," Roy said. "The rest wasn't easy, but the defense played really well. They cleared the rebounds and didn't give the Flames good chances.
"The Flames are not dead. . . . They beat the Oilers."