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4-1 Loss a Surprise? Not for Goalie Roy

June 02, 1993|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MONTREAL — While those around Patrick Roy hinted that the Kings would be easy pickings for the Canadiens on the road to their 24th Stanley Cup, and while local newspapers declared the Kings would pose less of a challenge to Montreal than the Maple Leafs because of Toronto's supposedly superior defense, Roy's was a voice of dissent.

"I never thought we were the favorites," the Canadiens' goaltender said. "I never thought this would be an easy series."

Any thoughts the Canadiens harbored about waltzing through the finals were wiped out by the Kings' 4-1 victory, Montreal's first playoff loss at home, after eight consecutive victories.

"When you get too many pats on the back, sometimes you lose intensity," said Roy, who kept his concentration through a 34-save performance that bordered on the spectacular during a 20-shot King barrage in the second period.

"It is up to us now to get ready for the next game because we didn't play a very good game. We played their way."

The Canadiens' way is solid defense, rarely allowing the opposition to outnumber them on offensive forays. The Kings picked apart Montreal's defense with a consistency that unnerved the Canadiens Tuesday.

"We just put ourselves in a bad position," Roy said.

Said defenseman Sean Hill: "We didn't play our best game, that's for sure. We knew they're a quality team, with very skilled players, but we just weren't ready. We played a good first period, but mentally, we couldn't keep that going. Mentally, we weren't strong."

The Canadiens claimed they saw nothing Tuesday they hadn't seen the Kings do against Toronto or Vancouver or Calgary--no new forechecking patterns or change of style. The real surprise lay in their own flat performance, in how helpless they were to stop the Kings from opening up the game and drawing them into a shootout they knew they couldn't win.

"We knew exactly what they were going to do, and they keep doing it," Coach Jacques Demers said. "They don't change anything, and they are good at it. . . . We know what we have to do to regroup. We made too many mistakes, and we paid for it."

Said center Kirk Muller: "We knew they had a good offense, but they played well defensively, too. It wasn't much of a surprise for us. It was more that we let them come out in the first period and play their game. They got that first goal on the power play, and we were catching up all night."

The seven-day layoff the Canadiens enjoyed after defeating the New York Islanders in the Wales Conference final enabled them to catch up on their sleep, but it probably cost them their sharpness. The price for beating the Islanders in five games and waiting while the Kings and Maple Leafs played a seven-game series in the Campbell Conference final was a lack of concentration players unanimously blamed for their sub-par effort.

"I don't know what else to attribute it to," left wing Gary Leeman said. "You've got to give them credit for playing well and shutting us down, but usually the things they did wouldn't stop us."

The Canadiens can't afford to be at less than their defensive best in Game 2. "If we had to do it over, I think we would do a lot of small things right in our own end," Leeman said.

And some big things, too.

"We can't get caught playing the style of the Los Angeles Kings," said defenseman Jean-Jacques Daignault. "We have to be a lot more physical."

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