Game 206 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0

Game 206
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0
Saturday, November 25, 1944
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Short on manpower but strong on quality all along a 12 man front, the Toronto Leafs hauled themselves back into the leadership spot in the National Hockey League Saturday night at the Gardens.

Third period goals by Babe Pratt and Mel Hill gave the white sweatered Leafs a 2-0 shutout decision at the expense of a Stanley Cup championship club that went into the affray 8 to 5 favourites.

Seldom has a shorthanded Toronto club given so much against formidable opposition.

Minus Dave Schriner and Elwin Morris because of injuries, the physical burdens of the survivors were increased when right winger Lorne Carr joined the hospital parade early in the second period. Carr twisted ligaments in his right leg when Bouchard crowded him into the boards.

Carr was on the way to Wellesley Hospital to become a roommate of Schriner when the Leafs poured out their impressive third period victory attack. Lorne’s hospital stay is for an indefinite period. He hopes to get back for Saturday night’s engagement here against the Rangers. Schriner was able to walk around Sunday for the first time since his injury a week ago Saturday night here against Chicago. But he’s still not ready to think about rejoining his mates.

A crowd of 13,315 watched the Leafs unfold an inspired display of aggressive attacking and solid checking in front of Frank McCool’s outstanding goal work. Against a Montréal club that is strong, if not stronger, than the Stanley Cup unit of last spring, the Leafs offered an all-round hockey performance that amazed even their stoutest supporters.

Hap Day started the night with a club that had only two forward line sets, to face a formidable three-line Montréal system. Mel Hill and Tommy O’Neill were utility operators.

After Carr has disappeared from the Toronto lineup early in the second period, Hill moved in as right wing mate for Bodnar and Metz. O’Neill didn’t get into action until after Carr’s injury. Bodnar retired for repairs soon after Carr’s departure, and Day had to toss out an emergency combination of O’Neill, Metz and Hill.

The Leafs forced the pace from the opening faceoff, and outplayed a surprised Montréal club by a substantial margin in the first period. Metz, Hill and Carr were the leading challengers. In the second, Kennedy, Hill, McLean and Bodnar gave Bill Durnan the most trouble. McCool drew salutes from a crowd that was pent up with all the excitement of a Stanley Cup playoff in this stretch when he blocked shots from Lach and O’Connor.

The biggest second period thrill came when Gus Bodnar raced down the boards from his own blueline, grabbed up a loose puck and found unguarded territory to the Montréal nets. Unfortunately, Gus was in too big a hurry, and his shot from close range whistled right over the basket. While kicking out a shot from McLean, Durnan lost his stick and was an unarmed custodian several seconds, until a mate rescued the weapon from a corner of the rink.

Babe Pratt’s goal early in the third period was a piece of expert hockey workmanship that fooled Durnan completely. Metz and Bodnar started Hill on the way to the second one seven minutes later. Skating in from right wing, Hill fired a low shot that wicked into the cage off Durnan’s right leg.

Bodnar and Hill had a third goal tucked away late in the period as a result of a breakaway and a neat puck passing show. But they tossed the puck back and forth too often, and Durnan smothered Gus’ shot from close quarters. It was the best passing bout of a game that was easily tops of the early season here.

Montréal’s big line of Lach, Blake and RIchard caused McCool the most trouble. He did his best goaltending when facing this fast moving combination. Lach’s stickhandling was one of the game’s standout features.

The writer thought the improved defensive work of sophomore Ross Johnstone as Babe Pratt’s partner was one of the important contributions in the third straight win for the Leafs over the champions.

Although the game was played at typical Leafs-Canadiens pitch, with a generous distribution of hard checking, it was remarkably clean.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, November 27, 1944

1st Period
MTL PEN – 08:06 – Chamberlain
TOR PEN – 16:26 – Pratt
MTL PEN – 18:02 – Lach

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 03:41 – Davidson

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:48 – Pratt
TOR PEN – 02:38 – O’Neill
MTL PEN – 02:38 – Lamoureux
TOR GOAL – 08:13 – Hill (Bodnar, Metz)

TOR – McCool (W + SO)
MTL – Durnan (L)

TORGoaltenders: Frank McCool. Defence: Pete Backor, Reg Hamilton, Ross Johnstone, Babe Pratt. Forwards: Gus Bodnar, Lorne Carr, Bob Davidson (C), Mel Hill, Ted Kennedy, Jack McLean, Nick Metz, Tom O’Neill.
MTLGoaltenders: Bill Durnan. Defence: Butch Bouchard, Frank Eddolls, Wilf Field. Forwards: Toe Blake (C), Murph Chamberlain, Bob Fillion, Fern Gauthier, Dutch Hiller, Elmer Lach, Leo Lamoureux, Fern Majeau, Buddy O’Connor, Maurice Richard.

TOR – 9-3-0 (.750)
MTL – 8-3-1 (.708)