MONTREAL (LGS) — They say behind every joke there's a kernel of truth.
Toni Lydman is said to have a great sense of humor. Dry, but great. On the bench before shootouts, the guy who has scored all of 29 goals in nearly 600 regular season NHL games usually turns to associate coach Brian McCutcheon and jokingly asks whether he'll be first or third on the list of shooters.
On Saturday night in Montreal, with the shootout lingering and the season needing one of those open-heart massages Hawkeye used to do on M*A*S*H, the defenseman zips his Finnish lip. Just stares ahead. Prays his name won't be called.
Or prays that it will?
After three shooters on each team have failed to score, Lindy Ruff scrolls through his shootout buddy list. This is the unscripted wild card round. There are no salmon carbon copies. Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek are next. Sabre shots are getting weaker, but Ryan Miller is gaining strength with each save. Suddenly it's Round 6.
Ruff remembers a breakaway goal Lydman scored in the Eastern Conference finals in Game 5 in Carolina.
He clicks on Pantera5.
The defenseman takes the ice for the first time ever in a shootout. He is not prepared for this, or maybe he's done it a million times in his head. Over the din of the booing, not Looooooding, crowd, he hears Jaroslav Spacek yell "five hole!" Oh yeah, Spacek knows a bit about this shootout game. He's had one shootout try in his career, in 05-06 as a Blackhawk. He scored.
Down the bench, defensemate Henrik Tallinder could offer a story about how in a shootout last season at HSBC Arena he deked Martin Brodeur out of his Hall of Fame strap. (But, of course, not how he missed two nights later against Boston, Ruff pressing his luck.)
Lydman has no time for stories. Just a quick mental checklist. He decides against fancy. Five hole it will be.
Straight down the ice he goes, no slowing and speeding up, no wending his way outside the fresh ice and back in, no deking. True to his plan, it's just a humble wrister from the right hash, a low shot that slips between Carey Price's wickets and rattles around the back of the net.
The Sabres bench goes crazy. Ruff's pen hand stops quivering. Lydman half-lifts his stick in a modest celebration. Warming his hands over it would be hilarious. But Lydman's a serious guy.
The bench goes positively insane when Maxim Lapierre, the punk who boarded Patrick Kaleta in the first period, tries some crazy sh*t, starting off very slowly, then sprinting toward Miller. The end result is even weaker, a shot that traverses a sliver of the crease and slides well past the right post. Miller, who has made five straight saves, this time has to only watch.
And then celebrate.
In the postgame show, inexplicably asked about a move he didn't make, Lydman has the perfect comic retort. "The key was there was no move," he deadpans.