The Montreal Canadiens have scored a lot of goals in its 100+ years. Puckloads — over 20,000 to be precise. Which also means there have been a heckuva lot of goal celebrations for the bleu blanc et rouge — and some a lot more memorable than others.
Writing my recent article for The Hockey Writers on Danny Briere’s signature fist-pump got me thinking about some of my all-time favourite Habs goal celebrations. Not goals, but goal celebrations. In that article I shared a few of my favourites, so today I share with you ten of my favourite Habs examples. I’m sure your list may be different, by all means feel free to share them in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.
So on we go. As Pierre Houde likes to say: Et le but!!!!
10) Mats Naslund OT Playoff Winner (1987)
The “Little Viking” Mats Naslund regularly brought Montreal fans to their feet over his eight seasons with the Canadiens. In typical Swedish style, Naslund was usually somewhat reserved on the ice. But after scoring the OT winner against Montreal’s Adams Division rivals the Boston Bruins in the 1987 playoffs, there was no need to keep his emotions in check:
9) P.K. Subban OT Winner (2011)
Overtime winners are always exciting. Watching P.K. Subban score an overtime winner is that much more exciting. And you just can’t predict what he’s going to do. Here, he tries the ol’ chest pump with goaltender Carey Price, who comes out on top of that one:
8) Paul DiPietro Playoff Hat-Trick Goal (1993)
Paul DiPietro!? Remember him!? Yeah, that guy. The guy who was money for the Canadiens when they went on their “should-be patented” playoff run all the way to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. This one was that much sweeter because it was against the Quebec Nordiques. As Dick Irvin noted: “Look at the celebration, that’s Theoren Fleury style.”
7) Erik Cole High-Fives Referee (2012)
There weren’t a lot of highlights in that lowlight of a year in 2012 for the Canadiens, but the play of Erik Cole was certainly one of them. When he high-fived the referee after scoring against Carolina, I think he surprised everyone in the building, including himself.
6) Jacques Lemaire OT Cup Winner (1977)
Jacques Lemaire wasn’t really known for his goal scoring prowess. Then again, he didn’t have to be — the guy played with Guy Lafleur. But in Game 4 of the 1977 Stanley Cup Finals, the man known for his defensive systems as an NHL head coach scored two huge goals for the Canadiens, both on similar plays off of passes from Lafleur. The cup-clinching goal comes at approximately 3:12 of the clip. Love that two-legged jump à la Mike Foligno. Classic.
5) Brian Skrudland’s Fastest Playoff OT Winner (1986)
Talk about another plumber who rarely scored goals. Skrudland was often paired with rugged winger Mike McPhee who did most of the scoring. So this OT winner in the ’86 Finals against the Calgary Flames must be the high-water mark in Brian Skrudland’s career and to this day, is still the fastest OT goal in Stanley Cup history. Don’t blink or you might miss it. The celebration lasted longer than the overtime.
4) Alex Kovalev Helmet-less vs. Bruins (2008)
When Alex Kovalev came to play, he came to play. Problem was too often it wasn’t the case. Maybe it was the “C” on his chest that gave him some extra oomph on that night, but Kovalev’s helmet-less goal against Boston with blonde hair flowing totally channeled le démon blond Guy Lafleur. With arms outstretched as if ready to hoist the cup, Kovalev’s celebration still gives me goose bumps.
3) John Chabot in the “Good Friday Massacre” (1984)
The Habs and the Quebec Nordiques were bitter rivals having fought many epic showdowns in the “Battle of Quebec;” but this second round playoff tilt ended up as the one for the ages. The Canadiens were down 2-0 on goals by Peter Stastny and Michel Goulet. After a bench clearing brawl ended the 2nd period, the game erupted into a mini-war with another bench clearing brawl to start the 3rd. Somehow the Canadiens rallied in the 3rd period, scoring five goals on eight shots. Steve Shutt sparked the comeback when he found his goal scoring touch of the past with two quick ones, followed by goals by Rick Green, John Chabot and Guy Carbonneau to seal the deal. The Habs won the game 5-2 and the series 4-2. This game effectively ended Jean Hamel’s career when he was sucker punched by Louis Sleigher; and veteran referee Bruce Hood retired in the offseason, rumoured to have been pushed out by the league officials for his mishandling of the game’s events.
Now you have a glimpse into what kind of emotions were running through the Habs when Jean Chabot scored the team’s fourth goal. Even Larry Robinson jumped up (at about 4:55, though I would watch the entire clip — trust me you won’t be disappointed — unless of course you’re a Quebec Nordiques fan).
2) Claude Lemieux Beats the Hartford Whalers (1986)
Like Dick Irvin so aptly stated in the above clip of Paul DiPietro’s goal in 1993, teams need unsung playoff heroes to win. Enter Claude Lemieux: a rugged, chippy, in-your-face forward determined to carve out his unique place in hockey history. The Hartford Whalers fought hard, pushing the Canadiens to the brink in this game 7 overtime. But ultimately Hartford’s efforts just ushered Lemieux that much quicker to his destiny as one of the pre-eminent clutch playoff performers of all-time. This is classic Claude Lemieux, emerging from a puck battle behind the net to roof a backhand over Mike Liut’s shoulder. You can feel the disappointment of the Whalers’ commentating team. Lemieux’s slide to centre ice is epic.
1) Yvon Lambert Finishes off Don Cherry & the Bruins (1979)
Some hockey moments will always be etched in time: Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring for the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup; Paul Henderson’s game winning goal for Canada to win the Summit Series against the Soviets; Bobby Nystrom scoring to win the Islanders their first Stanley Cup; and this OT Semi-Finals game 7 goal by Yvon Lambert on a terrific goal-mouth pass by Mario Tremblay to send the Bruins packing (1:28 into the clip). Tremblay leaped up but deflected off of Lambert onto the ice. Lambert then joined him for a group hug as the rest of the team mobbed them. Of course this is the infamous “too many men” game where the Canadiens tied it late on a Guy Lafleur powerplay goal after Don Cherry blew a Bruins line change. The Canadiens moved on to the finals against the New York Rangers and went on to win their fourth Stanley Cup in a row. In the offseason, Don Cherry was fired as Bruins head coach. How good is that?
Is a trend emerging with this list? Overtime, the playoffs and the Bruins. Always brings out the best in the Montreal Canadiens.
But here’s a few honourable mentions that didn’t make it:
Larry Robinson (1979)
Same playoff series against the Bruins that ended with the Lambert goal, this time from game 3. Robinson gets an enthusiastic hug from rookie sensation Pierre Larouche and is mobbed on the ice.
Chris Nilan (1986)
When Chris Nilan scored it was always an event. Chris Nilan scoring on a breakaway, even better. The tough guy gives a great fist pump reminiscent of Briere’s move. Doug Soetart is in nets for the Habs (the year Patrick Roy took over).
And finally, Elmer Lach (1953)
This would’ve made the list if I could find video of it. After scoring the cup-winning goal in overtime, Maurice Richard slammed into him so hard, he broke Lach’s nose.
Oh and remember: always keep your stick on the ice.