Game 287 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0

Game 287
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 0
Wednesday, March 21, 1951
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Vézina Trophy came into its own at Maple Leaf Gardens last night after years of being taken for granted, as far as the fans were concerned.

In assisting goalie Al Rollins to his fourth shutout by blanking the Montréal Canadiens 2-0, the Toronto Maple Leafs kept the leggy netminder in the thick of the NHL bonus business.

With two games left apiece, the Leafs’ Rollins now trails Red Wing Terry Sawchuk by one goal in the stretch spurt for the trophy, awarded to the goalie whose team has the least number of goals scored against it. Sawchuk allowed one goal last night as the Wings knocked the New York Rangers out of the playoff berth hunt.

Rollins received great checking support from most of his teammates who, as corny as it may sound, really played this one for Al. They shot their scoring bolts in the second period and then barred the door to opposition sharpshooters. The Canadiens managed only 19 shots in the whole game, and only 11 in the last two periods, as the Leafs became increasingly possessive of the puck as time moved on.

Sid Smith and Gus Mortson scored the goals. Smith deflected Thomson’s shot into the net on a Max Bentley pass while the Canadiens were shorthanded. Mortson broke up a Montréal rush, passed to Gardner, who pulled Doug Harvey out of position to set up the Nugget.

Centre Ted Kennedy and defenceman Jimmy Thomson led the way in the Rollins’ rock formation, but they had plenty of support from Bill Juzda, Fern Flaman, Bill Barilko, Sid Smith, Tod Sloan, Cal Gardner, Harry Watson, Howie Meeker, Max Bentley, Fleming MacKell and Ray Timgren. Seldom this season have the Leafs given either Rollins or Turk Broda better protection.

The action, wisely if somewhat elastically handled by referee Red Storey, moved rapidly from end to end with a minimum of whistle tooting. The 13,417 fans were further entertained by a series of fights, which broke out late in the second period.

The brawling started when Howie Meeker, one of the most improved Toronto players of recent weeks, tangled with Canadien Calum MacKay. Linesman George Hayes attempted to break it up, and received a bit of a going over for his trouble. He pulled MacKay away, but the Canadien kept swinging blindly, evidently under the opinion he was still battling Meeker.

Fern Flaman leaped over Hayes and started pounding MacKay. A few feet away, Harry Watson and Floyd Curry exchanged blows and sweater tugs. Bob Dawes, who at the start of the excitement was apologizing to Rollins for hitting him in the face with the puck, still found time for a ring workout on ice and ended up underneath Bill Juzda. Meanwhile, Cal Gardner and Tom Johnson waltzed gracefully at centre ice.

Through it all, referee Storey stood back admonishing the battlers verbally while his two linesmen, Hayes and Mush March, acted as peacemakers. When the bodies had been sorted out, Storey assessed the two instigators, Meeker and MacKay, with majors, and let the rest go scot free. It was sound arbitrating, as little would have been gained by filling the penalty box with players and leaving the ice bare.

Storey, a former great Canadian athlete, let the players have the game to themselves. He let some minor wrongs go, but was on the spot for flagrant rule infractions. The result was a game which kept moving with few interruptions.

The game finished on a dramatic note, and you would have thought Toronto’s opposition was Detroit instead of Montréal, the way the Canadiens fought to ruin Rollins’ shutout bid. They benched goalie Gerry McNeil in the final half minute, but didn’t have a clear shot as the Leafs hogged the puck, and Rollins patrolled the crease with his goalstick like an overworked minesweeper.

Rollins’ successful shutout bid was sorely tried in the first period, when the mighty “Rocket” Richard gave a convincing demonstration of his personal claim to all star right wing recognition. Twice “The Rocket” shifted around Toronto defencemen as though they were cops on point duty, only to find Rollins a tough barrier.

Al stood his ice on both occasions, although the first time, after Richard left a surprised Jimmy Thomson somewhere up the arena, the puck hit the side of a goal post. At that, Rollins forced Richard to move almost past the net before firing.

On the next faceoff Richard galloped in again, breezing Bill Barilko off stride and getting a cut noggin for his trouble, as the Toronto defenceman swung his stick wildly in an attempt to halt the attacker. Rollins played the shot well as Richard and Barilko fell on top of him. Many south end fans though “The Rocket” cut his head on the goalpost when he fell, but referee Storey gave Barilko a five minute rest.

With Richard in sick bay being stitched up, coach Dick Irvin was unable to ice a successful ganging attack as the Leafs, led by Kennedy, allowed only three shots during the five minute penalty.

With Elmer Lach and Norm Dussault out with injuries, the Montréal coach was forced to revamp his lineup. He had Ken Mosdell centring Richard and Bert Olmstead, with Dawes between MacKay and Curry, and Billy Reay setting up plays for a variety of forwards, including “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Paul Meger and Paul Masnick. Geoffrion injured a knee when he tripped over Rollins on a scoring attempt.

The one and only King Clancy, his Cincinnati Mohawks unable to make the AHL playoffs, was a spectator, but somehow he managed to stay out of the second period fight.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 22, 1951

1st Period
TOR PEN – 13:23 – Barilko, high sticking major

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 04:27 – Johnson, cross checking
TOR PP GOAL – 05:32 – Smith (Thomson, Bentley)
TOR GOAL – 12:51 – Mortson (Gardner)

MTL PEN – 15:34 – Olmstead, slashing
TOR PEN – 18:21 – Meeker, fighting major
MTL PEN – 18:21 – MacKay, fighting major
MTL PEN – 18:57 – Mosdell, slashing

3rd Period

TOR – Rollins (W + SO, 19-19)
MTL – McNeil (L)

TORGoaltenders: Al Rollins. Defence: Bill Barilko, Fern Flaman, Bill Juzda, Gus Mortson, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: Max Bentley, Cal Gardner, Ted Kennedy (C), Joe Klukay, Danny Lewicki, Fleming MacKell, Howie Meeker, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ray Timgren, Harry Watson.
MTLGoaltenders: Gerry McNeil. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Bob Dawes, Glen Harmon, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Bud MacPherson. Forwards: Floyd Curry, Bernie Geoffrion, Calum MacKay, Paul Masnick, Paul Meger, Kenny Mosdell, Bert Olmstead, Gerry Plamondon, Billy Reay, Maurice Richard.

TOR – 39-16-13 (.669)
MTL – 24-29-15 (.463)