Flyers' New Guy Sinks His Old Team John Leclair's Hat Trick Helped Swamp The Canadiens. And The Montreal Fans Loved It.

Posted: February 26, 1995

MONTREAL — Though he didn't experience them during most of his four-year stay here, the bright lights of the TV cameras and seemingly endless interviews didn't faze John LeClair last night.

He basked in them.

LeClair, traded from Montreal to the Flyers just 17 days ago, picked up his second career hat trick in 12 days last night as the Flyers whipped the Montreal Canadiens, 7-0, at the Forum.

For LeClair, the three-goal game was more than he dared to hope for. A native of nearby St. Albans, Vt., LeClair said Friday that he would be happy with simply playing well against his old team.

He was more than happy last night.

After scoring his third goal on the rebound of a shot by Eric Lindros at 1 minute, 13 seconds of the third period, LeClair was elated. He leaped into the air and hugged his teammate as the sellout crowd of 17,800 cheered and tossed their headgear onto the ice.

"He's fired up right now," Flyers coach Terry Murray said. "Trades do that to people. We're very happy that he's excited. We're very happy that Eric Desjardins is excited. He's played extremely well since he's been with us. (Gilbert) Dionne is doing a really job good. He's going to break loose. The deal was good for us."

Few players get wild applause and hats thrown on the ice when they score three goals in an opponent's arena. But LeClair is still special in this hockey-crazed town.

"I'm not going to ask questions. I think I'm just going to keep going with it," LeClair said to a throng of reporters. "Playing on the line, I've gotten a lot of loose pucks. Things have been bouncing for me right now. I hope they'll stay that way."

Lindros, who had two assists, called LeClair an expert at creating scoring chances.

"He might not touch the puck, but he's doing something out there," said Lindros, who was reunited with LeClair and Mikael Renberg on the top line after a one-game stint on the second line.

"He goes right to the net, and the puck is generally there for him," Lindros said. "He's incredible how he's going."

Murray was thrilled with how the line played together. Renberg had three assists.

"They played well off each other," Murray said. "They were in the right place at the right times. When you get three big powerful men like that on the move, skating and working hard, they're a very tough line to contain."

Desjardins, acquired by the Flyers in the same trade as LeClair, added his first goal of the season at 9:51 of the third period.

The wild game also featured several fights in the third period, including one between Lindros and Montreal's Lyle Odelein with 11:07 left to play.

Shjon Podein, Kevin Dineen and Patrik Juhlin added third-period goals as the Flyers handed the Canadiens their first home defeat of the season.

Flyers goalie Ron Hextall picked up his 10th career shutout.

It was the first shutout at the Forum for the Flyers since Nov. 2, 1974.

"Wins like this do good things for you," Murray said. "It's always nice to score the first goal. Then when you get the second goal and the third goal, it makes it very comforting that you're going to execute the game plan."

In addition to LeClair and Desjardins, Dionne, another player in that trade, returned to the Forum for the first time. For Montreal, Mark Recchi played for the first time against his old Flyers teammates.

Recchi took just two shots and was hammered by his old mates several times.

The Flyers were more than sharp. They were near perfect. They got the puck deep in the offensive zone and made few mistakes in front of Hextall. Hextall also made several huge saves on 18 chances.

"From start to finish it was probably our best game of the year," Hextall said. "It's really encouraging that we're scoring goals.

LeClair scored two goals in the second period, at 8:48 and 14:40. After Podein scored 25 seconds into the third period, LeClair scored his third goal. Dineen, Desjardins and Juhlin added three more scores.

"We knew we had to come out strong," Desjardins said. "That's what we did and we just kept going at them."

Montreal goalie Patrick Roy was replaced by Ron Tugnutt with 9:02 left in the game.

There was plenty more action in addition to LeClair's goals. Just 1:47 into the game, Hextall said hello to Recchi by checking the former Flyer flat on his back in the right corner. Recchi skated into the corner to collect a loose puck, and Hextall, who left the crease presumably to get the puck, instead got Recchi.

Murray also shook up his lineup. Unhappy with the play of Dimitri Yushkevich for several weeks, Murray finally benched the third-year defenseman last night. Murray criticized Yushkevich for his play in Thursday's loss to Quebec, saying that he overhandled the puck in his own zone and played too offensively when the Flyers were protecting a three-goal lead.

So the Flyers have finally shown how good they can be. What's next?

"It's very important not to go too high on this," Desjardins said. ''That's the biggest mistake we could do. Just realize what we did, and build on it."

NOTES. Flyers center Craig MacTavish said yesterday that he had been playing since Jan. 22 with a broken bone in his left foot. MacTavish said the

break was a hairline fracture of a large bone, the result of his blocking a shot with the foot. He said he is about back to 100 percent. . . . It was a good thing that backup goalie Dominic Roussel did not have to play last night. He was weak from a respiratory infection. . . . After being scratched for six straight games, winger Rob DiMaio played in his second straight game last night and looked sharp. Said Murray: "His conditioning and attitude has been great through the time that he hasn't been playing."

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