Bad blood, good memories for Montreal and Toronto fans

Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:34pm EST
 
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens faced off against each other for the 717th time on Wednesday and as always the bad blood flowed.

It was the same when the two teams met 17 days earlier on Montreal ice, the nastiness no different from that witnessed in hundreds of other games in a rivalry that spans nearly 100 years.

The Canadiens and Maple Leafs are Canada's version of the Hatfields and the McCoys, a hockey blood feud that has at times split a country and divided families.

But it has also thrilled, the heat and passion generated by the National Hockey League's oldest rivalry capable of warming up a miserable winter's evening just as it did on Wednesday when the Canadiens struck for three goals in the last 11 minutes to steal a 5-2 win.

Good teams or bad, pre-season or playoffs, Canadiens-Leafs encounters are always circled in red by the legions of hockey fans in Canada's two biggest cities.

Even last season, when Montreal finished at the bottom of the Eastern conference, their 78 points just two fewer than Toronto, the clashes marked the highlight of disappointing campaigns.

But more than pride was on the line as the Canadiens paid their first visit to the Air Canada Centre this season sitting atop the East standings and Toronto just three points adrift.

Montreal has lost just four times in regulation this season, the Leafs handing them two of those defeats, including a 6-0 thumping on home ice.   Continued...

 
Toronto Maple Leafs' Frazer McLaren (2nd L) celebrates his goal with teammate Jay McClement (2nd R) in front of Montreal Canadiens' Travis Moen (L) and Ryan White during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch