The Montreal Canadiens won a game they should have lost in downing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the pivotal fifth game of their Stanley Cup semi-final series last night in Montreal. This was a complete reversal of the form they showed in their game five loss, a game the Habs clearly should have claimed by a wide margin.
Habs flat to start
The Canadiens seems almost lackadaisical in their approach last night. Certainly they treated this most important contest in a very casual manner. Had the Leafs showed any gumption at all, they would be leading the series instead of trailing three games to two.
For the first time in the series, Toronto actually held the lead at the midway point of the game. Bob Pulford scored at the 3:45 mark of the second period to open the scoring. Montreal tied things up at 12:05 on Yvan Cournoyer’s first playoff goal.
Rousseau with the winner
Bobby Rousseau scored the winning goal for the Habs at 7:30 of the third period. His slap shot through a Kent Douglas screen would have been stopped by Leaf goalie Johnny Bower, but the bullet drive sheared off the end of the blade of Bower’s goal stick and careened into the net.
With Bower lifted for an extra attacker, Jean Beliveau put this one out of reach with 44 seconds left in regulation time with a long shot from the Leaf blue line into the empty net.
Bower explained Rousseau’s game-winner.
“I didn’t see the shot, but I saw something half-way from the blue line. I guess it was just reflex action that got my stick over, but the puck broke the end off the stick and it went in.”
Imlach: “We’ll be back”
Toronto coach Punch Imlach assured the assembled throng of scribes after the game that the Leafs would be back for a seventh game in Montreal.
“We’ll be back. We’ll win in Toronto Tuesday and we’ll win back here Thursday, just as we did last year.
“Canadiens aren’t good enough to win in Toronto. You can put that in because I want them to know it so they’ll be at their very best.”
Worsley: “Life or death”
Montreal goalkeeper Gump Worsley, who won last night’s netminding duel, called the series a “goalies nightmare.”
“Every game has been so close that you have to go after each shot as if it were a case of life or death. One bad play by the goalie could be curtains for his team.”
“Usually, in a series like this you run into the odd game where one team or the other builds up a three-goal lead and goalies get a chance to breathe. Not in these games. Johnny Bower has had four cliff-hangers and Terry Sawchuk one in the Leaf goal. I’ve had three and Hodge two in our nets. Man, that is rough on the nerves.”
Worsley was a standout for Montreal, and was selected as the game’s first star by former NHL’ers Bert Olmstead and Bernie Geoffrion. His best stop of the night was against Frank Mahovlich in the first period.
“He caught me going the other way with a snap shot. I just managed to kick out and block it with my right leg pad. If it had bene higher I doubt if I could have reached it. I had hotter shots but that was my big save.”
Toe Blake praises Rousseau
Canadiens coach Toe Blake realized his team was starting the game flat, but praised Rousseau for getting things going in the right direction.
“They just didn’t seem to have any pep before the game. Nothing I could do or say seemed to loosen them up. I figured they were still stewing over losing the fourth game in Toronto after out playing Leafs so badly.
“But thank goodness Bobby Rousseau got us rolling. He skated into the first Leaf in sight on his first shift on the ice. He kept storming at those guys and the rest of our fellows perked up. But it was a long night.”
Rousseau said, “I had such a bad season that I knew I must produce in the playoffs. I started preparing myself mentally for it the last couple of weeks of the season.
“I remember Bob Pulford saying you couldn’t concentrate solely on hockey over a 70-game schedule, but that you should think only hockey in the playoffs. I believe that. So I start thinking hockey from the first moment my feet touch the floor when I get out of bed. I keep thinking that way until after the game.
“I think maybe I was a little too fired up for this game. I took a penalty for slashing early. I don’t like that.”
- NHL president Clarence Campbell has been admitted to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto with ulcer problems. His condition is not serious and he is expected to be released on Tuesday to head home to Montreal.
- Charlie Hodge is still not over the groin injury he suffered early in the series. Canadiens called up Ernie Wakely from Quebec to act as Worsley’s back up.
- Red Berenson also was recalled from the AHL Aces after they were eliminated by Toronto’s Rochester farm team.
- Leafs started five defencemen on the opening faceoff, with Allan Stanley at centre. Stanley didn’t play again until the final two minutes of the game.
- Ed Chadwick registered his second playoff shutout this year as the Buffalo Bisons blanked the Hershey Bears 2-0 at Buffalo.
Retired police detective, involved in hockey at all levels for over 50 years. Member of Society for International Hockey Research and presently a video analyst for the leader in advanced hockey analytics (we work exclusively for 2 NHL clubs, and provide advice on an ad hoc basis to many other clients). Currently the Assistant General Manager for the Pelham Pirates of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. Previously owned the Faceoff computer hockey simulation and also provided all player ratings for the EA Sports series of NHL computer games from the late 90’s into the mid 2000’s.