Playoff Game 21 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1

Playoff Game 21
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6
Saturday, April 19, 1947
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

A modern hockey miracle was written into the record books as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montréal Canadiens 2-1 at Maple Leaf Gardens Saturday night.

The sensational victory, before 14,546 delirious fans, gave the world’s hockey championship to the youngest major professional team in National Hockey League history. The Leafs won the gruelling series against the more experienced defending titleists, four games to two.

The Leaflets, a completely rebuilt hockey organization, thought by all at training camp last fall to be at least two years away from the world title, came flying through in grand style. The victory brought the historic Stanley Cup back to Ontario for the second time within three years. It was a fitting climax to the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Toronto club.

To win the final game, the Toronto kids had to once again come from behind. They did it in rip-roaring fashion. Down a goal after only 25 seconds of play, they fought back in a determined manner to tie up the game and go on to eventual victory.

Buddy O’Connor put the Canadiens out in front on the second rush of the game. He capitalized on a combination of Toronto errors. But instead of disorganizing the Leafs, as an early goal did in Montréal last Thursday, the sudden reverse gave the players new strength.

They came back in splendid form, playing great hockey and pouring rubber at the formidable Bill Durnan by the proverbial bucketful. Such antics had to pay off in goals. The equalizer came early in the second period from the stick of rookie Vic Lynn. Less than six minutes of the game remained when tenacious Ted Kennedy, a youthful veteran who knows absolutely nothing about quitting, put his team out in front with a long, low shot that Durnan never saw.

That ended the scoring, but for sheer drama and excitement, the final minutes of the final game would be hard to beat. The Canadiens fought back grimly, and Toronto fans held their breath as the veteran Turk Broda, performing brilliantly in the Leafs’ net, frustrated the desperate Canadiens.

Picture the last minute of play, with every fan in the building standing up and screaming for victory. With 40 seconds to go, Kenny Reardon breaks up a Toronto attack and rushes in on Broda, only to be balked at the last second as groans could be heard from fans expecting the red light to go on.

Broda held the puck, and a faceoff was called in Toronto territory. Time 19:22, and Montréal coach Dick Irvin pulls clever netminder Bill Durnan off the ice in favour of a sixth forward. Comes the faceoff, and Vic Lynn ices the puck. It misses the open net, and play is called back to the Toronto end.

Time 19:39. Faceoff and mad scramble. Again Lynn is Johnny-on-the-spot, and the puck is cleared, necessitating yet another faceoff.

Time 19:54, and coach Irvin pulls the last strategic trick out of his bag. He sends defenceman Kenny Reardon in at centre and orders every player to take out a Leaf, leaving one man free for the last shot of the game. The strategy fails, and there is a mad scramble behind the Toronto net as the bell goes to end the game, and the world reign of the Montréal club. The noise is terrific, as the players fall all over each other and fans go wild. It is minutes before the excitement subsides, and the players disappear into the dressing rooms.

It was a thrilling playoff game from start to finish, with plenty of wide open hockey of a brand not very often seen in such crucial encounters. The best action took place in the second period, when the Leafs had a big edge in play.

Montréal’s team captain, Toe Blake, said after the game there was no doubt about the better team winning, adding that but for Bill Durnan in the Canadiens’ net, the score would have been much higher.

He might have added that but for Broda in the Toronto net, the Canadiens might well have tied the series at three games apiece. Blake himself was robbed of a sure goal in daring fashion. He eluded the rest of the Toronto team, and was swooping in to score when Broda lunged at the puck in the best traditions of the Olympic high divers.

Broda was the top Toronto performer by a long shot. “He brought us through,” a husky voiced coach Happy Day said, pointing to the loquacious “Turkey” sitting in front of his locker after the game.

Only a shade less brilliant than Broda were the kid trio of Ted Kennedy, Vic Lynn and Howie Meeker. This line chose Saturday night for their best performance of the series. They paid off with the two Toronto goals. Howie Meeker, generally conceded to have won the Calder Trophy for the rookie of the year, was in on both Lynn’s and Kennedy’s goals.

Then there was Syl Apps, Harry Watson and Bill Ezinicki. The great team captain, playing his final game of hockey in the NHL (unless he alters his earlier decision to retire), inspired his teammates with a fine performance, despite an injured heel. He was hurt in the fifth game at Montréal Thursday.

Big Harry Watson gave a very colourful performance, and was blocked on shots on which any other goalie in the league would have fanned. Ezinicki made amends for Thursday’s rather weak effort in sensational style. He did the heavy work for the Apps line, and proved once again he knows how to stickhandle. The body check he gave the much heavier Roger Leger late in the second period will long be remembered at the Gardens. Leger bounced back like a rubber ball and fell to the ice, nearly stunned by the force of the impact. Ezinicki skated blithely on his way. It was a sockeroo of a check, but legal all the way.

The Leafs came up with a new line in the final game. It was centred by Gus Bodnar, bobby sox idol, who was sent down to Pittsburgh two months ago. Little Gus, lightweight of the team, arrived in town Friday and replaced the injured Wally Stanowski. It was a masterful piece of hockey strategy.

Bodnar, wise in the ways of the tough playoff grind, was a big help at centre ice. He drew the laudatory comment from an excited Conn Smythe after the game: “We couldn’t have done it without Bodnar. He gave us the needed strength at centre. He was terrific.”

Gus was partnered by Don Metz and Gaye Stewart. Both tried hard, although the last mentioned player, who has had a tough year, was not up to scratch. Metz checked well and was particularly effective when working with Joe Klukay killing off penalties. Klukay once again proved that he’s a handy man to have around any hockey club.

Back of the blue line, coach Day once again relied on four rookie rearguards, and they did everything asked of them. There was a nearly disastrous lapse in the first minute when the Canadiens scored. But the kids stoned and gave Broda plenty of support. Garth Boesch worked hard, despite a throat infection and a groin injury, while Hollywood Bill Barilko was using his hips again. Gus Mortson and Jimmy Thomson came up with another great performance.

For the losers, it was Durnan all the way. On one of the very rare occasions this year, the Canadiens fell apart at times Saturday. Not Durnan. He played like a man possessed, and rallied his team with his stentorian voice time and again. When they come to dividing the playoff swag in the Canadien camp, Durnan should get at least two full shares. He earned it in the final series, and can in no way be blamed for the Montréal loss.

Durnan and Broda broke even in goals scored against in the series. Each was beaten 13 times in six games. The Leafs lost the first game, 6-0; won the next three 4-0, 4-2 and 2-1; lost the fifth 3-1; and won the clincher 2-1.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 21, 1947

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 00:25 – O’Connor
TOR PEN – 00:42 – Mortson
TOR PEN – 04:09 – Meeker
MTL PEN – 08:58 – Leger
TOR PEN – 11:16 – Thomson
MTL PEN – 17:02 – Chamberlain
MTL PEN – 19:41 – Leger

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 01:27 – Kennedy
MTL PEN – 01:53 – Bouchard
TOR GOAL – 05:39 – Lynn (Kennedy, Meeker)
TOR PEN – 06:37 – Ezinicki

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 14:39 – Kennedy (Meeker)

TOR – Broda (W)
MTL – Durnan (L)

TORGoaltenders: Turk Broda. Defence: Bill Barilko, Garth Boesch, Gus Mortson, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: Syl Apps (C), Gus Bodnar, 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, Murdo MacKay, Buddy O’Connor, Jimmy Peters, Billy Reay, Maurice Richard.