Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3
Saturday, February 17, 1945
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario
Getting the full benefit of an unusual sequence of hockey situations, the Montréal Canadiens finally pinned the jinx of Maple Leaf Gardens here Saturday night before 14,922 eyewitnesses.
The Toronto Leafs gave an all out effort against the powerful visitors, came from behind twice to tie them, went one goal up on one occasion, and then finished on the short end of a 4-3 score, beaten but certainly not overshadowed.
Call it poetic justice or just a kiss from Lady Luck, but Maurice “The Rocket” Richard marked up the winning goal of the seven goal contest late in the third period. It was his first score of the season on Toronto ice, and his 44th goal that broke the previous modern NHL high production mark set by Cooney Welland in 1929-30, while with the Boston Bruins. Welland had 43 goals.
First of the series of sequence plays that led to the Montréal victory came 36 seconds after the second period had started. Elmer Lach, the outstanding two way performer of the Canadiens throughout the evening, sneaked an angle shot back of Frank McCool for the first goal of the night. The first period had been scoreless. Nick Metz tied it up three minutes later. Late in the hectic 20 minute stretch, Fernand Gauthier batted the puck back of McCool after a scramble in the goalmouth.
Within 13 minutes of the third period, the Leafs had tied the game a second time and then taken command. Mel Hill scored off a nifty passing play with Pratt and Kennedy. Then Art Jackson went into a spin in front of the Montréal cage as he took a pass from Pratt and backhanded a shot behind Bill Durnan. The Leafs were now leading 3-2.
The wheels of hockey fortune were with the Canadiens 22 seconds later. Gus Bodnar, attempting to clear the puck out of the Toronto zone, dumped it to defenceman Glen Harmon, camped just inside the blueline. Harmon’s long shot caromed off the arm of Elmer Lach and into the Toronto basket to tie the score.
Richard got the winning goal at 15:10, after one of this much publicized puck chaser’s few scoring bids. He had been so thoroughly blanketed by Nick Metz and Bob Davidson, who haunted him in turn, that he seldom had a speaking acquaintance with the puck for more than split second stretches. This trip, he raced in from left wing with a pass from Lach. He swung around Reg Hamilton and fired from close range. The shot was blocked by McCool, but the puck went straight up in the air, dropped lazily on the goalmouth, and rolled slowly into pay territory.
Hap Day used only two forward lines against the three shift procession tossed out by Dick Irvin. Pete Backor and Johnny McCreedy didn’t get into the game at all. Art Jackson appeared briefly as a substitute for Gus Bodnar late in the first period. He didn’t show again until midway through the third, this time replacing Ted Kennedy. Jackson bagged the goal that gave the Leafs their temporary lead, soon after hitting the ice. Kennedy was in the dressing room for repairs to an injured wrist that had been massaged by Bouchard’s stick.
Because of the wrist injury, Kennedy was left behind when the Leafs headed out of Toronto for a Sunday night engagement with the Red Wings at the Olympia. Tommy O’Neill was taken along as replacement.
The biggest league game crowd to greet the Leafs and their guests at the Gardens in years was given a full run for its money. Although McCool was victimized by a strange string of goals, all touched by Lady Luck, he did a good chore against hockey’s outstanding team. He was at his best late in the third period, after Richard had gonged his 44th goal. He robbed Getliffe and Mosdell in succession on plays that looked much more threatening than Richard’s winning effort.
Babe Pratt came up with one of his most aggressive home performances of the season. He was the top defenceman of both clubs, and made plays for two of the three Toronto goals. Glen Harmon was the top rearguard of the visitors, in another demonstration of coach Dick Irvin that he’s the best defenceman the Habitants have had in years.
The best bodycheck of the night was the one Reggie Hamilton hung on referee King Clancy in the first period. Hamilton had been boarded by Bouchard. When he came out of the tailspin, he started back up the rink. Clancy crossed his path; Hamilton apparently figured Bouchard was on his trail again, stuck out those authoritative elbows, and knocked King on the seat of his pants.
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 19, 1945
MTL PEN – 04:04 – Hiller
TOR PEN – 08:57 – Hamilton
MTL GOAL – 00:36 – Lach
TOR GOAL – 04:04 – Metz (Carr)
TOR PEN – 15:21 – Metz
MTL GOAL – 18:07 – Gauthier (Bouchard)
TOR GOAL – 07:37 – Hill (Kennedy, Pratt)
MTL PEN – 08:17 – Bouchard
TOR GOAL – 13:35 – Jackson (Pratt)
MTL GOAL – 13:50 – Harmon
MTL GOAL – 15:10 – Richard (Lach)
MTL – Durnan (W)
TOR – McCool (L)
MTL – Goaltenders: Bill Durnan. Defence: Butch Bouchard, Frank Eddolls, Glen Harmon. Forwards: Toe Blake (C), Murph Chamberlain, Fern Gauthier, Ray Getliffe, Dutch Hiller, Elmer Lach, Leo Lamoureux, Kenny Mosdell, Buddy O’Connor, Maurice Richard.
TOR – Goaltenders: Frank McCool. Defence: Pete Backor, Reg Hamilton, Ross Johnstone, Babe Pratt, Wally Stanowski. Forwards: Gus Bodnar, Lorne Carr, Bob Davidson (C), Mel Hill, Art Jackson, Ted Kennedy, John McCreedy, Nick Metz.
MTL – 32-5-3 (.838)
TOR – 19-18-2 (.513)