Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 3
Wednesday, January 24, 1951
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario
The Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Montréal Canadiens 4-3 in an exciting NHL test that thrilled 13,240 fans, but was the despair of a couple of coaches at Maple Leaf Gardens last night.
The important win enabled the second place Leafs to close the gap between themselves and the leading Detroit Red Wings to eight points, and move further ahead of the third place Montréalers.
From start to finish, the game had a bit of everything, including clever rushes, nice scoring plays and a fistic setto that saw one player banished from the game. It finished on a dramatic scale with the Canadiens, their goalie benched in favour of an extra forward and the Leafs a man short through a penalty, storming the Toronto zone in a desperate effort to score the equalizer.
The game ended with captain “Teeder” Kennedy, around whom the game’s big brawl centred, gaining possession in his own end with seconds remaining and holding on to the puck until the final bell.
The rapid movement of play from end to end, the close checking, the heavy bumping and the big fight all kept the fans on the edge of their seats to the very end. But for the two coaches, Montréal’s Dick Irvin and Toronto’s Joe Primeau, it must have been a nightmare as their squads played loose defensive hockey in their own ends.
First, about the fight. Kennedy and Canadien Tom Johnson tangled in the Montréal end zone midway through the second period. Both players shed sticks and gloves and waded into each other like a couple of Deacon Allen’s middleweights.
Banished with majors by referee Red Storey, they had not reached the penalty box before a little drama that was to have far-reaching consequences opened its first act. Coach Dick Irvin spoke to Glen Harmon and the Canadiens’ defenceman hurried to Johnson’s side. The plan was obvious. The Canadiens could spare one of their six defencemen, but the Leafs would sorely miss their spark plug, Kennedy. So the Irvin mind went to work.
As the two battlers settled into their five minute seats, Johnson uncorked a looping left which sent Kennedy staggering. Fighting like a mad bull, Johnson enacted his part to the full, even struggling to throw off restraining ushers and a cop, with a sense of humour, who patiently patted the Montréaler on the back as if to pacify a wild beast.
With 10 minute misconducts added to their penalties, both were sent to their dressing rooms for the rest of the period. The penalties hung over into the third, and the two players had hardly reached their seats before Johnson again started throwing fists. Referee Storey, suspicious of such probable tactics, was on top of the action and tossed the Montréaler out of the game.
The apparent strategy of the quick thinking Montréal coach backfired. It cost Johnson $75 in fines. Kennedy will be forced to pay $25 for his share of the doings.
Second, about the finish. The Canadiens tried desperately to tie the game in the third period, outshooting the Leafs 8-3. With one minute left, Irvin called goalie Gerry McNeil to the bench and sent out an extra forward. Then with only 27 seconds to go, Tod Sloan was banished with a minor for tripping, and a faceoff was called in the Toronto zone.
Irvin sent out his biggest men, four defencemen with Elmer Lach at centre and Murdo MacKay as key man to get the pass back. There were two faceoffs and Kennedy own them both, the last coming with seven seconds left on the clock. Teeder gained possession and ragged the puck behind his own net.
Third, about the scoring. The Habs tallied first, with Kenny Mosdell, one of the top visiting performers, completing a ganging attack, early in the game with Sloan serving a tripping penalty. Kennedy tied it up a couple of minutes later, taking the puck from Lach as the Leafs attacked with Doug Harvey serving a penalty.
Lach, another great performer, put his team ahead on a clever passing play with linemates Bert Olmstead and Norm Dussault. But Joe Klukay demonstrated the art of stickhandling in modern hockey to even the score at 2-2 before the first rest period.
Joe took a pass from Danny Lewicki, an aggressive and helpful performer all evening, to break beyond the Montréal defence and cleverly pull McNeil out of position. Max Bentley started it all from a faceoff.
The remaining goals were scored in the second period. Johnny McCormack used Johnson as a screen to lift a high blooper into the Montréal net. McNeil was still posed waiting for the shot as the puck hit the back of the net.
Cal Gardner finished off a clever play to put the Leafs two goals up. Flem MacKell dashed down his wing, swung toward centre and flipped the puck to Harry Watson. The alert big guy quickly relayed to Gardner, who fired a backhander.
Mosdell added his second goal of the night before the period ended. He took a short pass from Olmstead and fired the puck between Al Rollins’ legs. There was no scoring in the third, although both teams missed chances with erratic shooting. Several shots from each side hit goalposts with the goalies out of position.
The Canadiens were without “Rocket” Richard, who probably would have had a scoring field day in the loose defensive play.
Jimmy Thomson was a Toronto absentee, his first miss in 279 games. The Leafs dressed Howie Meeker and Hugh Bolton, but the two returning injured players did not get into the game. The Canadiens were down to nine forwards, and only their great line of Mosdell, MacKay and Floyd Curry was intact.
Defencemen of both teams handed out many a solid block, but all were guilty of backing in on their goalie.
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 25, 1951
TOR PEN – 00:40 – Sloan, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 01:19 – Mosdell (Harvey, Harmon)
MTL PEN – 03:28 – Harvey, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 03:59 – Kennedy
MTL GOAL – 11:35 – Lach (Dussault, Olmstead)
MTL PEN – 14:55 – Harvey, interference
TOR GOAL – 18:13 – Klukay (Bentley, Lewicki)
TOR GOAL – 03:29 – McCormack (Smith)
TOR GOAL – 04:53 – Gardner (Watson, MacKell)
MTL PEN – 09:28 – Johnson, fighting major + misconduct
TOR PEN – 09:28 – Kennedy, fighting major + misconduct
MTL GOAL – 14:40 – Mosdell (Olmstead)
MTL PEN – 00:00 – Johnson, game misconduct
TOR PEN – 00:30 – Flaman, delay of game
MTL PEN – 02:42 – Lach, hooking
TOR PEN – 02:42 – Lewicki, high sticking
TOR PEN – 19:33 – Sloan, tripping
TOR – Rollins (W)
MTL – McNeil (L)
TOR – Goaltenders: Al Rollins. Defence: Bill Barilko, Fern Flaman, Bill Juzda, Gus Mortson. Forwards: Max Bentley, Cal Gardner, Ted Kennedy (C), Joe Klukay, Danny Lewicki, Fleming MacKell, John McCormack, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ray Timgren, Harry Watson.
MTL – Goaltenders: Gerry McNeil. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Glen Harmon, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Hal Laycoe, Bud MacPherson. Forwards: Floyd Curry, Norm Dussault, Elmer Lach, Calum MacKay, Paul Masnick, Kenny Mosdell, Bert Olmstead, Billy Reay, Claude Robert.