Playoff Game 22 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)

Playoff Game 22
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1
Wednesday, April 11, 1951
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Sid Smith, the Toronto-born hockey player with an unrehearsed flair for the dramatic, pulled all the Hollywood stops as he poked home the payoff goal for his Maple Leafs against the Montréal Canadiens last night.

The Groucho Marx of the Leafs dressing room scored after five minutes and 51 seconds of sweltering, sudden death overtime to give the Leafs a 3-2 victory in the first of a best of seven Stanley Cup final series at the Gardens. The second game will be played here Saturday.

Smitty, a crew-cut citizen of West Toronto with a fine sense of humour, showed a fine sense of timing as he opened and closed the scoring in as fast and exciting a hockey game as has been seen here this season.

One of the league’s four 30 or more goal men in schedule play, Smith waited until the dying minutes of the 70th game to enter that charmed circle a couple of weeks back. Last night he opened the scoring after 15 seconds of play and sent 13,939 perspiring fans heading for the exits 65 minutes and 36 seconds later. Cecil B. deMille would probably reject such a plot as highly improbable.

While Smith emerged the hero of this piece, he was by no means the only hockey player on the ice. True, his game starting goal threw the Canadiens off stride, with only Gerry McNeil’s net mastery preventing a first period deluge of goals. The Leafs outshot the Habs 14-5 in that first 20 minutes, but after the intermission, the visitors from Québec came flying back to twice tie the score and force the game into overtime.

Sharing Toronto scoring honours with Smith was his linemate, Tod Sloan, a lad who at times didn’t appear to be doing too much out there. Yet he did enough to score the other Leaf goal, and figure in both of Smith’s.

Ted Kennedy, a player whose name only appeared in the summary once, an assist on Sloan’s goal, was the workhorse of the line. He started the plays that paid off in goals, yet the scoring officials from Detroit missed him on at least two occasions. (Perhaps he should print Howe or Lindsay across his back to help their eyesight!)

The mighty “Rocket” Richard scored the first goal for Montréal to make the score 1-1, and a sharp little rookie, Paul Masnick, backhanded the other one by Turk Broda to make it 2-2. Gus Mortson scored a goal for Toronto on a Howie Meeker engineered play, but referee Bill Chadwick disallowed it because Cal Gardner was lying on top of McNeil in the Montréal crease. And if the Toronto centre, who played a disappointing game, checks the rule book, he’ll find the referee was quite right.

Except for a short period in the second period when centre ice forechecking slowed the pace, it was one of the fastest games of the season. Long rushes with clever passes were rapidly exchanged, with defencemen and goalies keeping busy all evening.

This was a game with three good lines against three good lines. Elmer Lach, “Rocket” Richard and Bert Olmstead were the number one trio for coach Dick Irvin, but he managed a good night’s work out of his old reliables, Kenny Mosdell, Baldy MacKay and Floyd Curry, with old man Billy Reay showing a new lease of life between rookies Paul Masnick and Paul Meger.

Kennedy, Sloan and Smith were the big three for Toronto, but Max Bentley, Flem MacKell and Joe Klukay provided quite a few goalmouth thrills. Gardner, whose close checking was his best contribution, Howie Meeker and Ray Timgren worked hard. Meeker missed at least two chances to score the winning goal in a wide goalmouth scramble just before Smith went to work. Timgren has never checked better, especially when killing off penalties.

Both teams had reserves, but used them sparingly. Harry Watson was dressed after missing the Boston series because of a shoulder separation. He wasn’t used much after the first period. Danny Lewicki wasn’t dressed.

“Boom Boom” Geoffrion, the highly rated Montréal rookie, saw brief service with Billy Reay, but was replaced by Masnick. Bob Dawes polished the bench, as did defencemen Glen Harmon and Ross Lowe. Irvin stuck with four rearguards, a much improved Butch Bouchard working with Tom Johnson, and Doug Harvey sharing duties with Bud MacPherson.

Coach Joe Primeau used five defencemen. Fern Flaman and Bill Barilko were his top men. Bill Juzda spotted off Jimmy Thomson and Gus Mortson, the last mentioned a rapidly moving, rushing defenceman throughout the night. Barilko saved the game for the Leafs, diving across the open net to deflect Richard’s netbound shot with Broda out of position.

Sloan took both Bouchard and Johnson into a Montréal corner with him on the first Toronto rush of the game to set up the early goal. He outfought the two big rearguards and flipped the puck out to a waiting Sid Smith, who had only McNeil to beat.

Richard proved an opportunist to pull Montréal on even terms. He knocked down an attempted Toronto passout and went in on Broda all alone. The Toronto goalie dived to take Richard out of the play, succeeding, but the puck kept on sliding, eluding both players until it rested well within the Toronto net.

The Leafs moved in front again after another 15 second, Sloan scoring on Mortson’s rebound after Kennedy made the play with his puck carrying.

That lead lasted until the early minutes of the second. Reay outdrew Bentley on a faceoff in the Toronto zone and passed back to Masnick. The rookie winger swung around, backhanding the puck through a narrow opening on Broda’s short side.

The rapid pace meant ragged tempers and a brief fight, the only irregular action of the evening, broke out late in the third with Sloan and Olmstead the combatants. They rolled to the ice in a wrestling embrace and drew major penalties for their effort. They were sent to their dressing rooms to cool out.

In overtime, the Canadiens had the first chance to win. Broda outreached Lach to deflect a MacPherson shot away from the Toronto goal. Then Barilko dived to ruin Richard’s bid for additional fame in his beloved Québec.

At the other end, Mortson bounced a hard shot off McNeil’s pads and Meeker did everything but score in a wild goalmouth scramble. Then Curry hit a post with a big hole awaiting the puck.

Then into the picture stepped Smith. He grabbed Sloan’s passout from behind the Montréal net, after Tod had poked the puck from Harvey and MacPherson. Cutting a rug on ice, Smitty swept the puck into the net with a backhand effort. That was the end of game number one.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 12, 1951

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 00:15 – Smith (Kennedy, Sloan)
TOR PEN – 00:54 – Flaman, high sticking
MTL PEN – 02:51 – Richard, holding
MTL PEN – 11:28 – Mosdell, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 15:27 – Richard
TOR GOAL – 15:42 – Sloan (Mortson)
MTL PEN – 16:07 – Curry, interference

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 04:02 – Masnick (Reay)
TOR PEN – 16:24 – Kennedy, slashing
TOR PEN – 19:06 – Flaman, interference

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 04:53 – Meger, slashing
MTL PEN – 15:08 – Olmstead, fighting major
TOR PEN – 15:08 – Sloan, fighting major

TOR GOAL – 05:51 – Smith (Sloan)

TOR – Broda (W, 20-22)
MTL – McNeil (L, 36-39)

TOR – 14+7+12+6 = 39
MTL – 5+7+7+3 = 22

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