Playoff Game 05 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1

Playoff Game 05
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 1
Tuesday, March 21, 1944
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Hap Day and his Toronto Maple Leafs swung wide the widest playoff gates in modern Stanley Cup playoff history here Tuesday night by defeating the Montréal Canadiens 3 to 1.

The underdog Leafs, with admittedly the weakest team to carry the Toronto banner into Stanley Cup competition in many years, shattered the curbstone and backroom dope to all corners by producing the first win credited against the Montréalers on Forum ice this winter.

Elwin Morris and George Boothman scored first period goals that gave the Leafs a surprising 2-0 lead. Jackie Hamilton scored the only goal of the second period and the Leafs were in front 3-0. In the early moments of the third period, Toe Blake scored on a pass from Elmer Lach for the only Montréal goal.

Dick Irvin and his Canadiens had gone through 25 home games of the National Hockey League season before they ran into their playoff nemesis tonight. The most amazing thing of the Stanley Cup opener was the fact that the Montréalers were more concerned over the playoff series than the Toronto contingent. The Toronto contingent seemed satisfied that the Canadiens were tagged for a four game straight victory.

It was early in the first period that Morris popped a goal back of Bill Durnan to start the Leafs on their victory parade. George Boothman scored on a pass from Morris late in the same period. The first Toronto goal came while Chamberlain of the Canadiens was in the penalty box, the second while Lach was in the cooler.

Jackie Hamilton ran the Leafs into a 3-0 lead midway through the second period, when he scored off a play set up for him by Babe Pratt.

It was early in the third period that Toe Blake saved the Canadiens from a playoff shutout when he scored off a ganging play fashioned by Lach.

Hap Day gambled on the most unusual lineup he has presented this winter. He had Ross Johnstone, a rookie youngster from the Marlboros and Oshawa, as a left winger. He had Don Webster at right wing as partner for Kennedy and Boothman.

“Spirit,” said Day after the game, “is the quality that we have the most of, and that’s what paid off dividends.”

Between the periods, the Canadiens were presented with the Prince of Wales Cup for leading the league in the regular season, and goalie Bill Durnan was awarded the Vézina Trophy for leading the league in goalkeeping.

But the Cup winning team didn’t win the game, and the best goalie at the Forum tonight wasn’t the Vézina Trophy winner. Paul Bibeault stood out as the greatest individual star of the game.

The netminder was the Rock of Gibraltar in the nets, coming up with a spartan chore. In fact, the whole Toronto team gave a smashing defensive display, borne out by the fact they came out on the long end of the score despite the night’s play, which was concentrated in their end for most of the 60 minutes.

Toronto went three up in the second, on the only goal of the night scored while both teams were at full strength. It was a breakaway from a sustained Canadien offensive, with Babe Pratt making the play and Jackie Hamilton taking the pass and firing the goal.

The Canadiens connected for their only goal early in the third, just after they had been left a man short by a penalty to Ray Getliffe. Elmer Lach speared a loose puck near the Canadien net and rifled a pass to Toe Blake, who was in the clear at the blue line. Blake out-distanced all pursuit to ride in alone on Bibeault.

The teams play here again Thursday night, before moving on to Toronto for two games.

There was nothing at all to choose between the two teams in the first five minutes of fast action. Then Murph Chamberlain went off for tripping. The Canadiens put up a staunch defensive wall around Bill Durnan for most of the penalty, but just before Chamberlain returned, Elwin Morris shot the Leafs into the lead. He grabbed the puck from a faceoff deep in Canadien territory and rifled a low hard one past Durnan.

The Leafs got through an interference penalty to O’Neill midway through the period, thanks to some lovely work by Bibeault. The Canadiens continued to press relentlessly after the sides were back at full strength. The Leafs were on the defensive, but they showed plenty of fire and the bumping became heavier and heavier as the period neared its close.

Elmer Lach was serving an elbowing penalty when the Leafs went two up. George Boothman shot the goal after taking Morris’ pass from a ganging play around the Canadiens net. WIth seconds to go, O’Neill drew his second penalty for holding.

The Leafs were over their own blueline only twice in the first five minutes, as the Canadiens kept them pinned up with a continuous assault, but Bibeault turned everything that came his way with a beautiful exhibition of goal guarding. The pressure kept up until the eight minute mark – when Durnan still hadn’t had a shot to handle at the other end. Then, Bibeault was injured when the crowd of players tumbled into the net with him. He didn’t leave the ice, however, and play was resumed two minutes later.

The most sustained offensive seen at the Forum this season ended suddenly at the 13 minute mark. Pratt and Hamilton broke down in a lightning play that ended with Hamilton taking the pass in front of Durnan for a score. It was the third shot Durnan had had in the period.

Lach and Reg Hamilton went off together for high sticking at the three quarter mark. The Canadiens kept the puck inside the Toronto zone most of the time they were off, but there was no scoring, and the same situation applied with the teams at full strength in the final minutes of the period.

Bibeault drew a great ovation as he led the Leafs back on the ice for the final period. Getliffe drew a high sticking penalty, and the Canadiens promptly took their own manpower shortage as the signal to score their first goal. Toe Blake did it, taking Lach’s pass at his own blue line and outdistancing pursuit as he rode in on Bibeault all alone. The time was 2:49.

The whistle went for an offside just before Gerry Heffernan beat Bibeault again, and the crowd roared its disappointment when the goal was called back. Then Webster and Watson went off together after tangling along the boards. It was still wide open hockey, with the Canadiens doing the major part of the pressing when the game hit its final eight minutes.

With five minutes to go, Bibeault came up with another spectacular play, and Chamberlain went off for high sticking when he carried Bibeault into the net with a terrific crash. The game was held up while the ice was cleared of debris let fly by the crowd.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 22, 1944

1st Period
MTL PEN – 05:37 – Chamberlain
TOR PP GOAL – 06:07 – Morris
TOR PEN – 08:23 – O’Neill, interference
MTL PEN – 17:23 – Lach, elbowing
TOR PP GOAL – 18:35 – Boothman (Morris)
TOR PEN – 19:50 – O’Neill, holding

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 12:24 – J. Hamilton (Pratt)

TOR PEN – 15:31 – R. Hamilton
MTL PEN – 15:31 – Lach

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 01:33 – Getliffe, high sticking
MTL SH GOAL – 02:49 – Blake (Lach)
MTL PEN – 08:24 – Watson
TOR PEN – 08:24 – Webster
MTL PEN – 13:35 – Chamberlain

TOR – Bibeault (W)
MTL – Durnan (L)

TORGoaltenders: Paul Bibeault. Defence: Reg Hamilton, Ross Johnstone, Moe Morris, Babe Pratt. Forwards: Gus Bodnar, George Boothman, Lorne Carr, Bob Davidson (C), Jackie Hamilton, Ted Kennedy, Tom O’Neill, Don Webster.
MTLGoaltenders: Bill Durnan. Defence: Butch Bouchard, Glen Harmon. Forwards: Toe Blake (C), Murph Chamberlain, Bob Fillion, Ray Getliffe, Gerry Heffernan, Elmer Lach, Leo Lamoureux, Buddy O’Connor, Maurice Richard, Phil Watson.