This represented a normal night's work for the 26-year-old Lafleur, who this season led the NHL in scoring for the third straight year. The role suits Lafleur and he accepts it. "I am playing more for the people than myself," he says. "The people here expect me to do more and more every day. It never stops. I have friends who bring friends to a game and tell them about the way I play, so I cannot disappoint them. I owe them a show for the money they pay to watch me."
Still, on Tuesday night in Game 2, Lafleur didn't bother to perform until almost midnight. For three periods, Boston Wing Don Marcotte kept him away from the puck—"Marcotte checks me better than anyone else in the league," Lafleur concedes—and they both watched Cheevers frustrate the other Canadiens with brilliant goaltending.
Twice Cheevers stopped 36-goal-scorer Jacques Lemaire from dead in front of the net. Twice he turned back 49-goal-scorer Steve Shutt's best shots. Another time Cheevers so psyched-out Yvan Cournoyer that the Roadrunner never got off his shot. One moment Cournoyer was at the goal mouth with the puck. Seeking a slightly better angle, he started to glide to his right. Cheevers followed him. Cournoyer kept gliding. Cheevers kept following. The goaltender had become a forechecker. Suddenly the exasperated Cournoyer found himself almost against the sideboards—and a Bruin skated by to relieve him of the puck. Several shifts later, Cournoyer cut in against Cheevers on a two-on-one. This time, Cournoyer rifled a shot for the right corner of the net. Cheevers blocked it with his shoulder.
Effectively employing a new defensive strategy that called for one forward to stay back and help his defensemen, who had been ordered to play conservatively to limit the Canadiens' breakaway opportunities, Boston had much the better of play in regulation, which ended with the teams deadlocked 2-2.
But in sudden death it was all Montreal as the Canadiens swarmed over the Bruins. On one series Cheevers, who had lost his stick, somehow blocked four straight shots with various parts of his body. Another time Cournoyer had not one but two whacks into what seemed to be an empty net, but Cheevers blocked both shots with his ample belly.
Then, 13 minutes into overtime, Lafleur showed up. Taking a pass from Robinson, he bolted down the right wing—almost along the boards. Subtly—so subtly, in fact, that he later could not recall doing it—Lafleur maneuvered Cheevers into the crease. Normally Cheevers would have moved out to cut down Lafleur's shooting angle, but now he had to worry about a possible pass from Lafleur to Robinson, who was streaking down center ice. In that instant, with the Montreal crowd roaring, Lafleur blasted the puck between Cheevers' left leg and the post—and the Canadiens won 3-2.
"I had a feeling," Lafleur said. "I knew the fans wanted me to score, not just anyone."
Despite the fact that they now trailed the Canadiens two games to none, and had not beaten Montreal in 14 straight games, the Bruins were hardly depressed. "We slowed them down to our speed in that second game and eliminated their breakaways," said Park. "And we also learned that maybe the Canadiens don't have the great team that everyone thinks they have. When it came to the overtime, they used only three defensemen and just two lines. That tells you something about how good their other 10 players really are."
The skating surface in Boston is at least nine feet shorter—all in the area between the blue lines—and two feet narrower than the rink in Montreal. As Cheevers says, "The Garden seems to be all boards, and we're mainly a boards team, while the Forum seems to be the wide open spaces—just right for a free-skating team like the Canadiens."
In Game 3 Thursday night, the Bruins totally closed down Montreal's skating game by mercilessly harassing Lafleur and his teammates with solid body checks, and when it was over they had a 4-0 victory that was a lot more one-sided than the Canadiens' 4-1 romp in the opening game. Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first minute and led 2-0 before the game was six minutes old. "After that it became pretty obvious that we're not a very good come-from-behind team," said Montreal Winger Bob Gainey. "Then again, we haven't had much practice at coming from behind."