Playoff Game 15 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2

Playoff Game 15
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 6
Saturday, March 31, 1945
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Maple Leafs hauled themselves into another Stanley Cup championship series by conquering the Montréal Canadiens 3-2 at Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday night in the sixth game of their see-saw playoff set.

It was the fourth playoff win for the Mapleos over a powerful Montréal club that had been beaten only eight times during the regular campaign – five times by their playoff conquerors.

A roaring crowd of 14,400 was left as limp as a wet dishcloth as the game finished in a spine-tingling scramble in the Toronto defence zone.

“Another finish like that, and the Leafs will need a new coach,” gasped Hap Day as he dropped into a dressing room chair after the wild puck tossing spectacle had been ended by the magic time gong. “Those last two minutes seemed a lifetime.”

Twenty seven seconds before the third period ended, Gardens hockey customers were eyewitnesses to probably the strangest sight in Stanley Cup playoff competition. Toe Blake had possession of the puck in front of the Toronto nets. And the nets were untenanted. McCool had gone into a nosedive after saving a shot from The Rocket. Blake had trapped his rebound.

All that was needed was a quick jab and the game would have been tied at 3-3. But Blake, hurrying the puck on its way, flipped it clean over the nets, and the last big moment of the Canadiens was gone forever.

The Leafs delivered their best all-round display of the six game series to eliminate their Montréal rivals. They spread a strong defensive wall in front of Frank McCool, and presented forward line combinations that were a good match for the best Dick Irvin had to offer – including hockey’s greatest wartime scoring combination of Lach, Blake and Richard.

As the third period ended, teammates swarmed around goalie Mccool, hugged, pounded and kissed the Calgary puckstopper, who must have developed a couple extra bushels of ulcers to go with the stomach miseries that have hounded him for years. Down the rink came Bill Durnan, the Toronto born goalie for the Canadiens. He was the first of the visitors to reach McCool, and almost pumped the Calgary Kid’s arm off. Running Bill a close second in saluting from a beaten team was Murph Chamberlain, an ex-Leaf, who was the toughest six game opponent the DAy boys had to contend with.

It was Elwin Morris’ late first period goal that gave the Leafs the victory urge, although Maurice Richard tied up the game two minutes later. One of hockey fastest breakers, Morris darted away from a Montréal ganging attack, outraced Frankie Eddolls, and went on to score at 16:58. Richard scored at 18:58 on a quick breaking play while Lamoureux and Bodnar were in the penalty box, but you could sense the winning drive of the homesters.

That winning drive came early in the second period, when Sweeney Schriner went swinging the length of the rink after picking up a pass from Lorne Carr in his own zone. It was one of Sweeney’s puck pushing masterpieces, and the locals were never headed.

Early in the third period, Gus Bodnar made it 3-1 for the Leafs when he steered Babe Pratt’s blueline shot past Durnan.

Late in the period Ted Kennedy, the outstanding forward of both clubs, executed a spectacular solo flight that ended when Butch Bouchard spilled him head first into the Montréal twine. While Ted was picking himself out of the mesh, Bouchard was up the other end of the rink on a scoring excursion, to put the visitors one goal away from the home boys.

The last two minutes was a nightmare for players, officials and spectators. The desperate Montréalers swarmed around the Toronto nets while McCool and five mates tended goal at once. There were three faceoffs inside the Toronto zone during the hectic final two minutes. The big time clock seemed to be doing a slow motion crawl.

Once the Toronto goalmouth looked like the finish of a goal line stand in football. Hill, Davidson and McCool were knocked flatter than living room rugs on the same play. Then came Richard’s shot, and Blake’s rebound flip that missed a yawning cage. Durnan was removed from the Montréal goal, six players sent to battle a faceoff play in the Toronto zone at 19:41. At long last the gong sounded, and the Leafs were into the Stanley Cup finals once more.

The wagering fraternity, still clinging to the theory that the Canadiens were the better club, and likely to play right back to their 10-3 winning form of Thursday in Montréal, established the visitors 9-to-5 favourites. But the Leafs played even more brilliantly than in their comeback classic of Tuesday, were full measure for the playoff decision. Ted Kennedy’s all-round display was the best individual performance of the six game set. The 19 year old Port Colborne boy has never looked better. And he was operating on a bad ankle.

Nick Metz, injured in the third game, was back in action Saturday. He took turns with Jackie McLean in spelling off Bodnar and Kennedy.

The Canadien had Frankie Eddolls on the defence in place of Stahan, the only lineup change from Thursday’s Montréal game. Tremblay and Emberg, the Québec amateurs, teamed again with Dutch Hiller.

Referee King Clancy was inclined to allow the athletes to do considerable slugging and charging. He seemed to be working on the theory that it was a give and take proposition, let the butt ends fall where they may.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 2, 1945

1st Period
TOR PEN – 02:25 – Morris
TOR GOAL – 15:59 – Morris
MTL PEN – 18:13 – Lamoureux
TOR PEN – 18:13 – Bodnar
MTL GOAL – 18:39 – Richard

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 04:41 – Morris
TOR GOAL – 07:11 – Schriner (Carr)

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:53 – Bodnar (Pratt)
MTL GOAL – 15:26 – Bouchard (Lamoureux)

TOR – McCool (W)
MTL – Durnan (L)

TORGoaltenders: Frank McCool. Defence: Reg Hamilton, Moe Morris, Babe Pratt, Wally Stanowski. Forwards: Gus Bodnar, Lorne Carr, Bob Davidson (C), Mel Hill, Ted Kennedy, Jack McLean, Don Metz, Nick Metz, Sweeney Schriner.
MTLGoaltenders: Bill Durnan. Defence: Butch Bouchard, Frank Eddolls, Glen Harmon. Forwards: Toe Blake (C), Murph Chamberlain, Eddie Emberg, Bob Fillion, Ray Getliffe, Dutch Hiller, Elmer Lach, Leo Lamoureux, Maurice Richard, Nils Tremblay.