Playoff Game 23 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

Playoff Game 23
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2
Saturday, April 14, 1951
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Hockey lightning in the human form of “Rocket” Richard struck at a playoff goalie for the third time in the 1951 Stanley Cup series at the Gardens Saturday night. And the deluge of cheers in far-off Montréal, heralding a 3-2 sudden death extra time victory for the Canadiens over the Toronto Maple Leafs, must have been thunderous.

Richard’s brilliant manoeuvre ended another rapidly moving, exciting playoff game after 2 minutes and 55 seconds of overtime. The goal enabled the Habs to return to Montréal for the next two games on even terms. The Leafs won the first game, also 3-2 in overtime, here last Wednesday. The third game will be played tomorrow night.

The Montréal victory was an exceedingly costly one for the Leafs, who lost one of their top defencemen, Fern Flaman. The ex-Boston rearguard suffered a groin injury late in the second period and will miss the rest of the series. Teaming up with Bill Barilko, he played a big part in the Leafs’ success against Boston in the semifinals, and was a defensive leader against the Canadiens until the time of his injury. With Flaman out, Bill Juzda will work will Barilko.

There was no letup in the second game of this final series, productive of clever stick handling, good passing and hard hitting. From start to sudden death finish, the 14,567 fans were kept alert in their seats by the sustained action.

Richard, the man who twice sent Detroit down to defeat with overtime goals, received great acclaim for his fine finish to as good a game as one could wish for.

Behaving very much like a bald eagle hovering over its unsuspecting adversary waiting to pounce, Richard circled aimlessly (or so it seemed) until a well laid down pass set him in the clear in the Toronto zone. Moving at incredible speed, Richard forced Turk Broda far out of his net before firing the game winning shot into the gaping rigging.

“The Rocket” made the most of a golden opportunity to score the goal that once again made him the sports hero of old Québec. The Leafs were changing lines when the play started. Defenceman Doug Harvey fired a perfect blueline to blueline pass which Richard gathered in, sidestepped a Toronto defenceman, enticed Broda halfway to the blueline and fired.

It all happened so fast and with such unexpected suddenness that many an argument will develop until movies of the game are scanned. The arguments will hinge around the question of whether Harvey or Richard, or both, were offside. It looked good from the press box, but the movies are beginning to make experting in such a fast game a losing proposition. Nevertheless, it was one of the prettiest goal scoring plays of any series.

The Leafs fought back from a two goal deficit to force the overtime in this game, but Richard squelched their efforts. In a game that was faster and more rugged than the opener, the Leafs had the more chances to win within the regular 60 minutes, but found goalie Gerry McNeil a formidable net man. The little guy made some astounding stops, as the Leafs outshot the Habs 36 to 24.

Tribute to McNeil’s ability came from a thoroughly disgusted Max Bentley. The Toronto pivot man had an excellent chance to score on a power play, moving up to the goalmouth with some clever side stepping, only to fire into the pads of a cool, little man who refused to bulge. “Teeder” Kennedy, a top Leaf, received similar disrespect earlier in the game.

The Canadiens played much better than in the first game, with the result the action kept up without any noticeable letdown. Coach Dick Irvin made two strategic moves in addition to making maximum use of Doug Harvey, after announcing earlier that a knee injury would keep him out.

Irvin came up with a promising kid line with Paul Masnick at centre, Paul Meger on left wing and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion at right. This threesome set up the first goal, and were in the thick of the heavy going all evening. Masnick in particularly spent a rough evening, finding himself lying on the ice just about every time he tried to pass Bill Juzda.

Montréal was further strengthened by spelling Elmer Lach off with Billy Reay between Richard and Bert Olmstead. This strategy resulted in Montréal’s second goal, Reay completing an around the goal passing spree that had the Leafs standing around like totem poles.

But then Ted Kennedy and his linemates went to work. Kennedy, who took a terrific pounding all evening, was at least 50 percent of the Toronto attack. He bulled his way goalward time and again, and was directly responsible for both Toronto goals, scoring the second with Sid Smith getting the first.

With Harry Watson steadily reaching proper condition after his shoulder injury, coach Joe Primeau moved the large left winger back to his old position with Cal Gardner and Howie Meeker. Why this threesome didn’t score at least three goals will remain a mystery for all time. McNeil had them so thoroughly confused with his blocking that they muffed good chances on the few occasions he was out of position.

Ray Timgren, one of the best Toronto checkers of the playoffs, took over for Flem MacKell on the Bentley line. Fans didn’t like the idea of the spectacular little MacKell sitting on the bench, and in the third period chanted “We want MacKell.” He saw scant action.

The major difference between the two teams was in the Leafs’ ability to kill off penalties and score goals when they had the manpower advantage. Both Toronto goals were scored with the Habs shorthanded, while the Leafs hogged the puck, mainly due to the work of Timgren, Kennedy, Klukay and MacKell, on the three occasions Montréal had an edge in players.

The Leafs used five defencemen, and the Canadiens four. Bill Juzda was the relief man for Jimmy Thomson and Gus Mortson until Flaman’s injury, then he worked with Barilko. Doug Harvey went well with Bud MacPherson, while Butch Bouchard and Tom Johnson paired off effectively.

The Canadiens made their bid for victory early in the game. Meger won a behind the net battle for possession before four minutes had been played, passing out to a waiting Masnick.

Reay made it 2-0 midway through the second. This time, Richard outfought the Leafs behind the net, passed to Olmstead, who relayed to Reay. Billy had half a net as Broda covered Olmstead.

MacPherson was serving a tripping penalty six minutes later when the Leafs struck back. Kennedy gained possession in a puck fight behind McNeil, fired out to Bentley, who shot a short pass across to Smith, and Mr. Opportunity flipped in his fifth goal of the spring series.

The tying goal came in the third period and was a mystifying bit of business, until Kennedy explained all after the game. Richard was in the penalty box when Teeder picked up the puck in his own end and moved up the left side, doggedly barging by would-be blockers. He fired a pass to Sloan, whose shot caromed off McNeil’s pads, hit Kennedy on the knee, and bounced into the net. Sloan was originally credited with the goal.

Montréal players stormed around referee George Gravel, haranguing him and grabbing at his sweater, but he merely harangued right back, although we have seen him assess Jimmy Thomson $25 for a lot less. Harvey, in particular, grabbed the referee in a degrading fashion. We object to Toronto players molesting officials, and the same goes for the visitors.

The Kennedy goal forced overtime and set the stage for the floating Mr. Richard to end the evening’s fun. Now to Montréal and the Forum with its excitable Habitant fans!

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 16, 1951

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 03:44 – Masnick (Meger)
TOR PEN – 06:26 – Flaman, tripping

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 02:51 – Thomson, tripping
MTL PEN – 05:56 – Masnick, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 09:24 – Reay (Olmstead, Richard)
MTL PEN – 14:22 – MacPherson, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 15:31 – Smith (Bentley, Kennedy)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 06:27 – Richard, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 08:16 – Kennedy (Sloan)
TOR PEN – 17:03 – Thomson, tripping

MTL GOAL – 02:55 – Richard (Harvey)

MTL – McNeil (W, 34-36)
TOR – Broda (L, 21-24)

MTL – 10+5+6+3 = 24
TOR – 6+12+15+3 = 36

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.
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.