Game 254 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1

Game 254
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1
Wednesday, January 19, 1949
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

A remarkable display of netminding and the polished playmaking of one forward line proved a potent combination, as the Montréal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at the Gardens last night.

That was practically the sum and substance of coach Dick Irvin’s team, but it proved more than sufficient to overcome the efforts of a game bunch of inexperienced youngsters, who were sadly let down by some of their far more experienced teammates.

Fortunate for the fifth place Leafs, they did not lose ground in the close NHL race, as both the fourth place Chicago Black Hawks and cellar dwelling New York Rangers met defeat last night.

It was only the work of Bill Durnan in the Montréal nets that kept the game from being a runaway in the first period. He played sensationally as the Leafs poured to the attack, aided by three minor penalties to the Canadiens, to outshoot the opposition 14-7.

But when the 20 minutes was up, Toronto was trailing 1-0, instead of being in front by at least three or four goals.

That effort took a lot of the starch out of the hodge-podge team that coach Hap Day assembled. With Cal Gardner forced to sit out his suspension game, and Ted Kennedy unable to take the ice because of an aggravated back injury, much of the Leafs’ inspiration was lost.

Kids like Tod Sloan, Ray Timgren and Johnny McCormack tried hard, but they received little support from experienced players like Harry Watson and Bill Ezinicki. That meant the difference between defeat and victory.

Bill Ezinicki, one of the most consistent players all season, chose last night to come up with a very disappointing performance, while Watson spent most of the evening roaming around as though in a daze.

True, the two veterans were without their regular pivot man Gardner, but they could hardly blame the trying McCormack, up from the Marlboro seniors on lend-lease, for their incompetent work. At that, they were not they only disappointing Leafs, but they stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.

For the victors, after the brilliant Durnan, it was the work of Murph Chamberlain, the old Québec farmer, and Maurice Richard, that gave the 14,347 fans the most to get excited about.

Murph and Rocket figured in three of Montréal’s goals. Richard broke away in the opening seconds of the game to chalk up the 201st goal of his NHL career. Chamberlain, said by many observers to be ready for retirement, scored twice, his second and third goals of the season.

The Leafs were attacking after the opening faceoff when Doug Harvey, an unexpected starter on the Canadiens’ defence because of an ailing knee, passed out to Chamberlain at centre. Murph relayed the puck to a flying Richard, who outskated Garth Boesch and Bill Barilko, and outmanoeuvred Turk Broda.

During the following 19 minutes and 29 seconds, the Leafs kept Durnan hopping, but the big goalie was invincible. They started strongly in the middle period, but sloppy clearing cost them the Canadiens’ second goal.

Chamberlain rushed up to scoop home a loose puck, with Richard and Kenny Mosdell gaining assists. The Leafs kept trying, especially a new line of Joe Klukay, Don Metz and Tod Sloan, and managed to reduce the margin halfway through the period. Sloan deflected Barilko’s shot past Durnan, with Metz receiving an assist.

In the third period, Sloan and McCormack were in close, but could not beat Durnan, and then the Leafs found the going really rough as the Canadiens played defensive hockey, shooting the puck out of danger and waiting for a break.

That break came at 10:35. Mosdell fired into a Toronto corner and Richard, his stick broken, played a beautiful soccer kick to lay the puck on Chamberlain’s stick in front of the net. Murph did the rest to make it 3-1.

The final goal was the fault of Bill Barilko, who decided to call it a night before the game ended. He loafed on the way back to retrieve a loose puck in the Toronto zone. Billy Reay, coming up with great speed, took the disc from him and skated in to beat Broda. Reay lost balance as he shot, crashing into the end boards and straining his neck muscles.

In summation, the Leafs looked capable on occasion of winning as they liked, but more often it was a sad case of looking as though they no longer belonged in the NHL.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 20, 1949

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 00:31 – Richard (Chamberlain, Harvey)

MTL PEN – 01:37 – Laycoe, interference
MTL PEN – 09:09 – Harmon, butt ending
MTL PEN – 15:45 – Campeau, high sticking

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 05:37 – Chamberlain (Mosdell, Richard)
TOR GOAL – 11:16 – Sloan (Barilko, Metz)
TOR PEN – 15:38 – Juzda, tripping
MTL PEN – 18:28 – Harmon, roughing
TOR PEN – 18:28 – Ezinicki, roughing

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 10:35 – Chamberlain (Mosdell, Richard)

MTL GOAL – 18:05 – Reay

MTL – Durnan (W)
TOR – Broda (L)

MTLGoaltenders: Bill Durnan. Defence: Glen Harmon, Doug Harvey, Hal Laycoe, Roger Leger. Forwards: Tod Campeau, Joe Carveth, Murph Chamberlain, Norm Dussault, Bob Fillion, Léo Gravelle, Kenny Mosdell, Gerry Plamondon, Billy Reay, Maurice Richard, Rip Riopelle.
TORGoaltenders: Turk Broda. Defence: Bill Barilko, Garth Boesch, Bill Juzda, Gus Mortson, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: Max Bentley, Bill Ezinicki, Joe Klukay, John McCormack, Don Metz, Tod Sloan, Harry Taylor, Ray Timgren, Harry Watson.

MTL – 15-14-6 (.514)
TOR – 12-16-8 (.444)