Paul Henderson: Canada dominated

Vets of '72 can't recall worse Russian effort

By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency




In the 38 years that have crawled by since he scored the most memorable goal in Canadian hockey history, Paul Henderson can not recall a worse effort by a Russian or Soviet national team.

Not on a national stage.

And certainly not against Canada.

Such was the stinker the moribund Russians produced in their 7-3 drubbing at the hands of Team Canada Wednesday in the quarterfinal of the Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver.

When Henderson’s Canadians faced off against the then-Soviet Union in the historic 1972 Summit Series, the mysterious team from behind the Iron Curtain was known as The Big Red Machine.

Wednesday night at GM Place in Vancouver, the Russians looked more like The Big Dead Machine.

Henderson takes glee in his pre-game prediction of a 5-2 Canadian victory. He figured Canada could build a three-goal advantage.

Just not by the first intermission.

“I don’t think I can ever remember a Canadian team (dominating) a Russian team like that from start to finish,” Henderson said Thursday afternoon.

Neither could Peter Mahovlich, whose highlight-reel goal in Game 2 of the ‘72 series against the great Vladislav Tretiak at Maple Leaf Gardens remains one of the most spectacular individual efforts in this bitter four-decade rivalry.

Neither could goalie Tony Esposito, who backstopped Canada to a pair of wins and a tie in ‘72.

And neither could Larry Murphy, who was part of the memorable line rush with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux that resulted in The Magnificent One’s last-minute, Canada Cup-winning goal against the Soviets in 1987 at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.

These four players did far more than just participate in the almost four decade hockey feud between Canada and the Russians/Soviets. They also played major roles in scripting the outcome.

And, to a man, all four expressed shock at the way Alex Ovechkin and Co. were whipped by the Canadians.

“Have I ever seen such a one-sided outcome between these two teams in Canada’s favour? No,” chuckled Mahovlich Thursday from his home in Glen’s Falls, N.Y.

Of course, the 7-3 score struck a familiar chord with Mahovlich and his fellow Team Canada ‘72 alumni. That was, after all, the same outcome in Game 1 of the Summit Series at the Montreal Forum.

“Ya ... except it was the Soviets who thumped us 7-3 that night, not the other way around,” Mahovlich said. “That’s one of the few painful memories I have of an otherwise wonderful series.

“That series was different. We didn’t know what to expect. These guys at the Olympics play each other in the NHL. Unlike us, they are familiar with each other.

“Canada is always portrayed as a country that doesn’t beat our chest. Well, we are now.”

Before fans get too carried away, however, Mahovlich has a message: Beware Slovakia, Canada’s opponent in the Olympic semifinal Friday.

“Look at some of the names on the back of their jerseys — Hossa, Gaborik, Chara. That’s a quality team. And we know how a hot goalie can win a game on his own.”

Esposito disagrees. If Canada plays the same way against the Slovaks as they did in their complete deconstruction of the Russians, even the heroics of goalie Jaroslav Halak “won’t matter,” Esposito said.

“Did you see some of those Canadian goals? They were perfect. They had the goalies moving side to side, where they are the most vulnerable.

“I know (Evgeni Nabokov) didn’t play well for the Russians, but the way Canada dominated from the start, the outcome was inevitable.”

Murphy figured Wednesday’s game called out for a last minute hero. Like Henderson was when he scored with 34 seconds left in ‘72. And like Lemieux was when he scored the winner in ‘87.

“We all expected some late dramatics like those. Instead this thing was over from the start,” Murphy said. “It was almost anti-climactic. They just physically pounded the Russians from the first shift.”

And, in the process, humiliated their long-time rivals in a way these four Canadian hockey icons had never seen before.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

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