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Stanley Cup Final : Lemieux Has Been Just Smashing in Playoffs

May 24, 1986|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY, Canada — After the Montreal Canadiens cut rookie Claude Lemieux during training camp last fall, he was reportedly so upset that he smashed his car's windshield. At least, that's what was reported by Montreal newspapers and The Hockey News.

"That's false," Lemieux said. "I hit it, but I didn't break it.

"Sure, I was not happy after I got cut, but I didn't (smash the windshield). I was not playing well in camp. I had skated for a month before camp opened and I was tired. And then I pulled my groin during camp."

Lemieux, 20, spent most of the season playing for a Canadien farm team in Sherbrooke, Canada, in the American Hockey League, although he was called up briefly by the Canadiens because of injuries.

"I learned that I didn't want to stay in the AHL," Lemieux said. "The NHL is like high-class, and the AHL is low-class. But I feel every player who's drafted should play at least one year in the AHL."

Lemieux (6-1, 208) was Montreal's second pick in the 1983 draft.

The Canadiens recalled him just before the start of the National Hockey League playoffs. And the way he is playing, it's doubtful that he'll return to the minors next season.

Lemieux has helped lead the Canadiens within one win of the franchise's 23rd Stanley Cup.

The Canadiens, who lead the Calgary Flames, three games to one, in the best-of-seven series, can wrap up their first NHL title since 1979 tonight at the Saddledome in Calgary.

Only one team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Cup--the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942, against the Detroit Red Wings.

Thursday night at Montreal, Lemieux scored an unassisted goal in the third period to give the Canadiens a 1-0 victory.

The Canadien right wing was also a principal in a bench-clearing brawl after the game. Lemieux, who bit the finger of Flame left wing Jim Peplinski, was one of eight players who received game misconducts.

Lemieux's 10 goals in 19 playoff games are the second-highest total ever by a rookie. Dino Ciccarelli of the Minnesota North Stars scored 14 goals in 1981.

Lemieux also leads the league this season with four game-winning playoff goals, one shy of the record set by Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders in 1983. Lemieux has scored two of his game-winners in overtime.

It was Lemieux's overtime goal against the Hartford Whalers in the seventh game of their series that put the Canadiens into the Wales Conference final against the New York Rangers.

Lemieux has dedicated his playoff goals to his brother, Serge, 19, who is paralyzed.

"He doesn't walk and he doesn't talk," Lemieux said. "He's like a 2-year-old. He's been in a hospital all his life.

"Some people pray to God, but me, I talk to (Serge). He's always been my motivation."

The NHL announced Friday that it has assessed $42,000 in fines as a result of Thursday night's brawl.

Each club was fined $10,000, and Montreal Coach Jean Perron and Calgary Coach Bob Johnson were each fined $1,000. All the players were fined $500 apiece.

In a statement released by the league office in Montreal, NHL President John Ziegler said: "There was absolutely no excuse for what took place following last night's game. The conduct of the players served only to degrade an otherwise outstanding hockey game. Club management must share in the responsibility for this altercation, and the president of each club has been instructed that there must not be a repeat of such an incident."

A total of 122 minutes in penalties were assessed as a result of the fight.

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