Pat Burns' bad boy, Claude Lemieux, moved back into the Montreal Canadiens lineup Sunday night, but his return wasn't an unqualified success.
Lemieux scored one goal for the Canadiens, bringing them to within a goal (3-2) with just over half a minute to play, but before he could get off the ice he was also hit with a slashing penalty, one that hurt the Canadiens dearly.
There were 27 seconds left to play when Lemieux scored. There was to be a faceoff at center ice and were the Canadiens able to control it, Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy could have headed off ice, Burns could put another attacker on and the pressure on Calgary would be immense.
Instead Lemieux managed to get himself in a verbal sparing match with Doug Gilmour in front of the benches. Eventually Lemieux slashed the Calgary center and was dispatched to the penalty box.
Burns still pulled Roy, but instead of having a six-on five, the two teams played even up. Eventually the Flames gained control and Joe Mullen scored into an empty net.
"I never slashed him," Lemieux said. "He (Doug Gilmour) tried to trip me from behind and I went to slash him and I changed my mind. He (referee Andy vanHellemond) maybe just wanted to make it even with the rest of the penalties and give it to them (the Flames in the third period."
Ironically, that call did make it exactly even.
VanHellemond dealt out 10 penalties to each side, 36 minutes apiece.
Calgary was two for seven on power play attempts. The Montreal power play was inept throughout the game and finished zero for seven.
Al MacInnis's assist on Joey Mullen's first goal extended his consecutive playoff games with a point string to 15, an NHL record. Bobby Orr set the standard with 14 in 1970. The goal and assist gave MacInnis 28 points in 20 games and virtually assures him of the playoff scoring crown. No defenseman has ever won the playoff scoring title.
The Flames came to the game trying to reverse the legacy of 1986 (losing four straight after winning the opener) with the numerical odds against them.
Since the league implemented a best-of-seven final series (1939), teams holding a two-games-to-one lead have gone on to win the Cup 27 of 30 times, a 90 percent rate.
Calgary's most noticable scratches were veteran forward Lanny McDonald and captain Jim Peplinski. Jiri Hrdina went in for Peplinski. McDonald also sat out Game Three. Lemieux replaced Brent Gilchrist.
It was the first time Peplinski, Flames' captain, did not dress for any of the team's 20 playoff games. He had one goal and five assists in his previous 19 playoff games. McDonald, an assistant captain, has no goals and three assists in 13 playoff games. Tim Hunter, the Flames' other assistant captain, has no goals and four assists in 19 playoff games. Hunter has not scored a goal in 77 consecutive games.
Flames coach Terry Crisp said Peplinski came out because it was felt he needed a rest.
"I wanted some fresh legs out there," Crisp said. "The biggest reason was that in order to get Hrdina in we had to get one out . . . to put one in one has to come out. That's the nature of the beast and for tonight that was the selection."
Hrdina went pointless and finished with one shot on goal.
Mullen's two goals were his his 14th and 15th of the playoffs, moving him one ahead of Philadelphia's Tim Kerr and Brian Propp. No other player in this series has more than 10.