Playoff Game 18 – Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 2

Playoff Game 18
Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 2
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3
Saturday, April 12, 1947
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Running up an early lead and then hanging on with fine defensive hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Montréal Canadiens 4-2 at Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday night.

The victory gave the Leafs a two games to one lead in the best of seven series to determine the Stanley Cup holders for another year. The fourth game will be played here tomorrow night.

The term “edged” is used advisedly in describing the close action. Down three goals with more than half the game played, the Canadiens served sharp notice that this title hunt is far from over. They came roaring back in the second period to score twice, and up until the final minute of play, looked capable of getting the equalizer.

With 47 seconds left in the game, the persistent checking of Ted Kennedy paid off handsomely for Toronto. The clever playmaker broke out of a goal mouth scramble in the Leafs zone and skated up the ice very much alone to put the decision beyond retrievement.

In sharp contrast to Thursday’s senseless battle of blood in Montréal, the third meeting between the two Canadian entries in the current hockey world series was a clean but vigorously contested affair. Eight penalties, four to each team, were handed out by referee King Clancy.

Clancy ruled sternly, and the players stuck strictly to their hockey knitting. As a result, 14,545 fans witnessed an exciting exhibition of clever playoff competition.

The Leafs blanked the Canadiens in the first and third periods, with each team scoring twice in the middle session. The ultimate winners established an early lead on a spectacular solo rush by defenceman Gus Mortson in the first period. Bud Poile and Vic Lynn made it 3-0 before 13 minutes of the second period had elapsed.

Until that time, the Leafs looked capable of winning by any given score. Then the Canadiens unleashed a terrific attack, roaring in to tally twice on goals by Léo Gravelle and Buddy O’Connor. It was Gravelle’s first appearance in the final round. He replaced the banished Maurice Richard on the vaunted Punch Line.

The Torontonians played very clever hockey. Their passing plays in the enemy zone were a pleasure to watch, while defensively they have rarely looked better.

Individual star of the game from this observation point was the Leafs’ Bill Ezinicki, one of the two victims of Richard’s Thursday night wildness. Ezinicki came up with his best performance of the year. He stickhandled beautifully, gave a great display of puck ragging in the third period, and in general did everything, and more, asked of him.

It was Ezinicki and his linemates, Syl Apps and Harry Watson, who were sent out by coach Happy Day to relieve the pressure whenever the Canadiens threatened.

Giving Ezinicki a close run for top honours was Gus Mortson. The youthful Northern Ontario mining prospector tore the ligaments of his right arm early in the game, but still managed to come up with some great two-way hockey. It was hard to realize he was playing under a severe handicap when he blasted a sizzling shot past goalie Bill Durnan for the first Toronto score.

Another stellar performer was plucky Vic Lynn, playing with one eye all but closed. Lynn went well both ways, topping his efforts with a second period goal.

Each team came up with clever defensive play. Rival goalies Turk Broda and Bill Durnan made the stops, but many a goalbound shot was blocked by a defenceman’s body. Officially each netminder handled 20 shots, but there must have been at least three times that many plays inside the respective defending zones.

Jimmy Thomson and Mortson in particular played as though they, and not Broda, were guardians of the Toronto twine. Time and again, they threw their bodies in front of the flying puck. Garth Boesch and Bill Barilko came up with similar spectacular action.

On the enemy rearguard, Kenny Reardon and Glen Harmon stopped many a hard drive with various parts of their individual anatomies.

In the Toronto dressing room after the game, managing director Conn Smythe was full of praise for his rookie defence duo, Thomson and Mortson. “Those kids have only been scored on four times in eight games,” he commented, nodding to the corner where the gold dust twins were dressing.

On the attack, the Apps line was most impressive, coming close to scoring on several occasions, while the Kennedy trio was responsible for two of the Toronto scores. Don Metz was the best of the third line. He combined with Bud Poile and Gaye Stewart for the second Toronto goal, and did most of the checking for his line.

Stewart should have had several goals on breakaways, as the Canadiens were forced to play a wide open game. Time and again he was in the clear, but overskated or failed to control the puck. Once he lost out to netminder Bill Durnan in a wild race for a loose puck. Durnan raced almost to his own blue line to bat the puck down the ice.

Only sour note in the whole proceedings was the kitty-bar-the-door tactics of the Montréal management, when they refused to let Toronto newspapermen enter the Canadiens dressing room after the game. Veteran Canadian Press hockey writer Fraser MacDougall had the door of the dressing room slammed in his face by Montréal manager Frank Selke.

“What’s the matter Frank?” MacDougall asked. “No Toronto press allowed in here,” Selke sternly replied, and quickly closed the door. Similar treatment was handed other Toronto writers merely attempting to do their job.

However, the smallness of the executive side should not detract from the great comeback attempt of the Red Shirts, who elected to play the game according to the book, and played it well.

Paced by Kenny Reardon, returning to action with a badly injured toe still far from healed, the Montréalers came very close to turning looming defeat into victory. Reardon was all over the ice, as he tried to rally his teammates into a winning surge.

The revamped Punch Line, with the veteran Toe Blake the only original member, was still a dangerous threat. Buddy O’Connor replaced Elmer Lach, injured in midseason, at centre, and Léo Gravelle stepped into Maurice Richard’s shoes at right wing. This line did all the Montréal scoring, O’Connor picking up a goal and an assist.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 14, 1947

1st Period
TOR PEN – 04:07 – Stewart
TOR GOAL – 09:45 – Mortson
MTL PEN – 12:33 – Allen
TOR PEN – 15:05 – Metz
MTL PEN – 17:53 – Reardon

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 00:16 – Boesch
MTL PEN – 02:55 – Peters
TOR PP GOAL – 04:48 – Poile (Stewart, Metz)
TOR GOAL – 12:23 – Lynn (Meeker)
MTL GOAL – 12:33 – Gravelle (O’Connor)
MTL GOAL – 18:30 – O’Connor (Blake)

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 10:15 – Poile
MTL PEN – 10:15 – Reardon
TOR GOAL – 19:13 – Kennedy

TOR – Broda (W, 18-20)
MTL – Durnan (L, 16-20)

TORGoaltenders: Turk Broda. Defence: Bill Barilko, Garth Boesch, Gus Mortson, Wally Stanowski, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: Syl Apps (C), Bill Ezinicki, Ted Kennedy, Joe Klukay, Vic Lynn, Howie Meeker, Don Metz, Bud Poile, Gaye Stewart, Harry Watson.
MTLGoaltenders: Bill Durnan. Defence: Butch Bouchard, Frank Eddolls, Glen Harmon, Roger Leger, Ken Reardon. Forwards: George Allen, Toe Blake (C), Murph Chamberlain, Bob Fillion, Léo Gravelle, Hub Macey, Murdo MacKay, Buddy O’Connor, Jimmy Peters, Billy Reay.