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YOUNGER, TOUGHER, SMARTER
E.M. Swift
April 20, 1981
Paced by Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers beat the Canadiens every which way in a three-game sweep
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April 20, 1981

Younger, Tougher, Smarter

Paced by Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers beat the Canadiens every which way in a three-game sweep

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After his steady performance in Game 1, Moog was superb in Game 2, turning aside 40 of 41 shots, controlling rebounds and keeping the Canadiens from delivering the early KO they so desperately sought. Instead, it was Edmonton that broke on top; five minutes into the first period, Coffey snapped a long shot over Sevigny. It was a big goal, sapping Montreal's momentum and giving the young Oilers some breathing room. In the second period the teams traded goals, and then, late in the third, Gretzky picked up a loose puck and sent Jari Kurri in alone. Kurri, too, beat Sevigny up high, and Edmonton had a 3-1 win.

That, in effect, was the series. Even the Forum fans knew it. They also were uplifted by the exuberant Oilers. Sick and tired of the malaise that had slowed the Canadiens for most of the season and certainly in this series, they rose to applaud the Edmonton team as it mobbed Moog at center ice. Yes, the fans were saying, that is how the game should be played.

It was a spiritless Montreal team that arrived in Edmonton for the third game, a club that had quit on its coach and was playing in awe of the irrepressible Gretzky. "All we've been doing is panicking when Gretzky's on the ice," said Center Keith Acton.

Gretzky scored three of the Oilers six goals in Game 3. Trailing 4-2 going into the third period, the Canadiens couldn't even muster a death kick. Edmonton, meanwhile, was skating, working, checking—and yapping. Having fun. Telling the Montreal players to get into the game. Come on, guys, get with it! "We didn't show them any respect," said Oiler Defenseman Kevin Lowe, 22, who grew up in Montreal and had idolized Robinson as a youth. "Near the end I felt bad about all the abuse we were giving them. But you just can't let them get started."

They never did. Lafleur, who finally got an assist in the finale, was more upset, hurt and shaken afterward than anyone could ever remember having seen him. "I'm not bionic," he said. "Hockey sticks hurt me, too." No m�s. He'd had enough. So had all the Canadiens. Enough of a 14th-place team of former WHA kids who simply refused to be awed by the Canadiens' mystique. As Montreal Center Doug Risebrough told Sather when the victorious coach came over to offer condolences, "You certainly made believers out of us, Slatsy."

Youth can do that sometimes.

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