Playoff Game 19 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

Playoff Game 19
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4
Tuesday, April 15, 1947
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Veteran team captain Syl Apps and his husky linemate, newcomer Harry Watson, proved a sensational winning combination which spelled doom to the Montréal Canadiens. The up and coming Toronto Maple Leafs downed the defending world champions 2-1 in a thrilling overtime exhibition of playoff hockey at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The suddenly achieved Toronto victory gave the Leafs a three games to one advantage in the best of seven final series for the Stanley Cup, emblematic of world hockey supremacy. The scene now shifts to Montréal for the fifth game Thursday night.

It was the smiling Apps, reportedly retiring from the hockey wars at season’s end, who snared a pass from Watson after 16 minutes and 36 seconds of wide open, sudden death overtime play, to score the winning goal. That payoff play sent 14,527 wildly excited fans home deliriously happy.

It was the solid Watson, who came to Toronto from Detroit in a preseason trade for Billy Taylor, who snared a pass from Apps early in the first period to tie the game up less than two minutes after Montréal opened the scoring.

It was Apps and Watson together, two experienced players with the necessary finish when in scoring position, who led their younger teammates to their third straight victory over the vaunted red shirts from Québec.

Their two goal scoring plays came in sequence, but there was a big gap between them – exactly 70 minutes and 23 seconds. During that lengthy period of sustained action, both teams close on numerous occasions, but were held out by tight defensive play and scintillating goaltending by the rival twine guardians, Turk Broda and Bill Durnan.

The Leafs have never looked better against their bitter Canadian rivals since the season opened last October. They were never able to take two games in a row from the NHL titleholders during the regular season. Suddenly now they have beaten them three times in five days. Providing youthful exuberance and overconfidence do not undo all their fine work to date, they look capable of taking the necessary one out of three remaining games.

But they are up against a worthy foe, never more dangerous than when the going is tough and the odds against them. The Canadiens, worthy defenders of their lofty laurels on the year’s play, have been known to make a comeback before. “Beware” should be the keynote of the Toronto team for the next few days.

The challenging Leafs outplayed the defenders throughout the long session of dramatic action. They outshot the Canadiens 35-30, and but for the net wizardry of the absolutely amazing Mister Durnan, would have won in regulation time by a fair margin. Time and again Durnan, cool as the proverbial cucumber, calmly reached into a struggling melee of players to rescue the puck and force a faceoff.

The Leafs managed to outplay their opposition up front and get past the enemy defence, but they found Durnan a tough nut to crack.

The winning goal should not detract from Toronto citizen Durnan’s good work. Harry Watson got the puck behind the Montréal net with at least a half dozen players swarming in front of Durnan – the Leafs trying to get free, and the Canadiens trying to block.

Suddenly Watson flipped the puck out in front by the corner of the net. For a fraction of a section, Apps eluded his check. It was long enough. A quick motion with his stick, and the hockey hero of thousands of youngsters across Canada had won the game.

Sharing honours in the netminding department was Toronto’s Turk Broda, who played equally as brilliant a game as Durnan. Broda was in top form, with a keen eye and, on more than one occasion, he stopped goal-labelled shots on fast Montréal breakaways. One notable incident was when Maurice Richard, an accurate operator around the net, broke through the Toronto defence, only to be thoroughly outwitted by Broda.

However, there were not many instances where the Canadiens broke through. The rookie defence foursome was little short of sensational. Garth Boesch played his best game since joining the Leafs. He was a second netminder as he went down low to block hard drives from enemy sticks. He made three brilliant stops in the overtime session alone. His partner, Bill Barilko, also played his best game of the final series.

As for the gold dust twins, Gus Mortson and Jimmy Thomson, they came through in their usual clever style, giving standout performances, and that despite the fact Mortson was playing with a sprained wrist. The fifth defenceman, Wally Stanowski, did not get into the game.

In retrospect, it was a great session of playoff hockey, with all the thrills of the popular sport pulled out for spectator approval.

The game started off on a hectic note, and referee Bill Chadwick, who handled a competent game, had his work cut out to prevent a riot.

Kenny Reardon, the Montréal firebrand, boarded Joe Klukay and the Toronto player fell to the ice unconscious. Reardon was banned for two minutes, as Klukay was carried off on a stretcher. The fans screamed for a major penalty, and an electric tenseness seemed to fill the big Carlton Street sports palace. The game was less than five minutes old.

Just previous to Reardon’s penalty, Gaye Stewart was banished for high sticking. Reardon had hardly settled down before he had to make room for Vic Lynn, and Montréal had a man advantage. This was the setting for the lone Montréal tally. It came from Glen Harmon, who finished off a ganging attack at 4:38 on a pass from Toe Blake.

Less than two minutes later, with each side a man short, Harry Watson scored the most picturesque goal of the night. He took a pass from Apps at centre ice, and was off like the wind. He split the Montréal defence like so much paper and blasted a terrific drive past Durnan.

Then the play settled down to a rugged, close checking affair. Shots handled during regulation play were 23 for the Leafs and 17 for the Canadiens. Both teams appeared overanxious, and the linesmen were kept busy calling offsides.

In sharp contrast to rather cautious play in the second and third periods was the hectic wide open overtime session. Both teams went after the all important tally from the start, and the netminders had to hustle. Before it all ended, Broda had 13 stops, with Durnan only able to stop 11 out of 12 chances.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 16, 1947

1st Period
TOR PEN – 03:58 – Stewart, high sticking
MTL PEN – 04:15 – Reardon, boarding
TOR PEN – 04:20 – Lynn
MTL PP GOAL – 04:38 – Harmon (Blake)
TOR GOAL – 06:13 – Watson (Apps)
TOR PEN – 06:53 – Ezinicki
TOR PEN – 08:05 – Barilko
TOR PEN – 08:05 – Lynn, misconduct
MTL PEN – 11:01 – Gravelle
MTL PEN – 17:11 – Bouchard

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:51 – Chamberlain
TOR PEN – 07:27 – Thomson
MTL PEN – 10:42 – Chamberlain
MTL PEN – 19:33 – Reardon, misconduct
TOR PEN – 19:45 – Ezinicki

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 10:03 – Meeker

TOR GOAL – 16:36 – Apps (Watson)

TOR – Broda (W, 29-30)
MTL – Durnan (L, 33-35)

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, Glen Harmon, Roger Leger, Ken Reardon. Forwards: George Allen, Toe Blake (C), Murph Chamberlain, Bob Fillion, Léo Gravelle, Murdo MacKay, Buddy O’Connor, Jimmy Peters, John Quilty, Billy Reay, Maurice Richard.