Monday, September 03, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Mario Lessard

This goalie was in one of the best comebacks in NHL history, but only screwed the pooch when trying to make a desperation play. While he came in like a house of fire, that play soon fizzled and he faded away from the game quietly, though he is a legend in his hometown. This week, the profile of Mario Lessard.

Lessard got his start with the QMJHL's Sherbrooke Castors in the 1969-70 season, playing in 15 games and finishing with a 3-5-0 record. Though he didn't play a lick in the 1970-71 season, Lessard came back with Sherbrooke for the 1971-72 season, going 7-8-1 in 21 contests; then losing all three playoff games he was in. For the 1972-73 season Lessard was playing in 40 games and finish with a 14-16-2 record, then went 4-2 in six playoff contests; while the 1973-74 season had Lessard in 44 games and compile a 19-17-0 record, but went 1-3 in four playoff games.

The Los Angeles Kings were the ones to pick Lessard in the 9th round of the 1974 NHL Draft and he would be placed in the IHL with the Saginaw Gears for the 1974-75 and 1975-76 season, playing 121 games over two years (sadly, no regular season records given) with seven shutouts and a 3.30 GAA. His playoff record over the two seasons was 10-7 in the 1975 playoffs and 7-5 in the 1976 playoffs. The 1976-77 season had Lessard play 44 games in Saginaw in the regular season, helping the Gears win the Turner Cup with a 12-6 record in 18 games. Lessard also played four games in the Central League with the Fort Worth Texans going 1-3-0.

Lessard would move up to the AHL with the Springfield Indians in the 1977-78 season, putting up a 30-17-6 record in 57 games, but would go 1-3 in the four playoff games he appeared in.

In the 1978-79 season, Lessard would be the start for the Kings after they lost Rogie Vachon to free agency and would go 23-15-10 in 49 games with four shutouts; but he would go 0-2 in the playoff games he appeared in. The 1979-80 season would be a little less successful, as Lessard would go 18-22-7 in 50 games, then 1-2 in four playoff games. Lessard rebounded in the 1980-81 season compiling a 35-18-11 record in 62 games, which allowed him to play in the NHL All-Star Game and be on the season-ending Second Team All-Star squad. Lessard also went 1-3 in the playoffs that season.

For the 1981-82 season, Lessard had a rough regular season with an 13-28-8 record in 52 games; but would go 4-5 in 10 playoff contests and was a part of one of the most famous games in Kings history, almost make it not happen at all. Lessard was in net for the Miracle in Manchester and almost lost the game for the Kings. During overtime, the puck was coming towards the Kings end with Glenn Anderson bearing down on it. Lessard made a move to go after the puck and cut him off-- but collided with Anderson, leaving an open-net for Mark Messier, but luckily Mark Hardy was there to distract Messier enough so that he would shoot it over the net. The Kings would win two minutes later, Lessard getting the win.

Lessard didn't have the year he wanted in the 1982-83 season, as he would finish with a 3-10-2 record in 19 games for Los Angeles before being loaned to Central League's Birmingham South Stars and putting together a 4-2-0 record in eight games, then posting a 6-3 record in 11 playoff matches. During the 1983-84 season, Lessard would only play six games with the Kings (0-4-1), before being sent down to the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks for five games (1-3-1) before finally deciding to retire after the season.

While his whereabouts have been unknown since then, he has gotten an arena named after him in East Broughton, Quebec. Lessard was able to come out of nowhere to come up big in his rookie year-- but inconsistency and pressure from all around the Kings organization to perform was something that was his demise in the NHL.

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