Playoff Game 24 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)

Playoff Game 24
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3
Tuesday, April 17, 1951
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Captain “Teeder” Kennedy figuratively scooped the puck from his own net into the webbing of the enemy to turn almost certain defeat into a stunning 2-1 victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Montréal Canadiens here tonight.

Kennedy’s dramatic goal after four minutes and 47 seconds of extra time, climaxed a brilliant comeback by Toronto goalie Al Rollins, and gave the Leafs a 2 to 1 edge in the best of seven final series for the Stanley Cup. The fourth game will be played here Thursday.

The Leafs fought from behind to force overtime in this third tough test of playoff hockey. It was the third overtime game, Toronto winning the first 3-1 after five minutes and 51 seconds of sudden death play, with the Canadiens winning the second by a similar score but taking only two minutes and 55 seconds of overtime. It was the fierce two way competitive spirit of Kennedy that saved the game for Toronto at a time when the Canadiens were threatening.

Three times in the short overtime, Montréal sharpshooters forced Rollins to juggle shots. The third attempt, a blazer from the stick of Kenny Mosdell, dropped into the crease behind the goalie, but Kennedy rushed in to clear and relieve the pressure.

The rookie Vézina Trophy winner, injured in the first game of the semifinal round against Boston, replaced Turk Broda for this third game of the final. The Turkey, who held the Bruins to four goals in six games and then won and lost a game against the Canadiens, sweated it out as a spectator. He was one of the first to reach the dressing room and congratulate the kid slated to succeed him.

“Rocket” Richard and Sid Smith scored the other goals.

On the final play after Kennedy cleared, the rubber disc moved from Montréal to Toronto sticks frequently in the next minute before Kennedy picked it up again. This time he was skating along the outside edge of the faceoff zone to the left of the Montréal goal. He took a short pass from Tod Sloan and fired a bullseye that passed in front of Gerry McNeil into the far corner of the net. That was all.

It didn’t seem possible that the Canadiens could lose as they peppered Rollins in that brief extra session and the 14,447 fans screamed their rabid support for a Habitant victory. The screams were quickly silenced as Kennedy ended the game, and Toronto players and coach Joe Primeau leaped over the boards to mob the dauntless team leader.

It was fitting that the player who has carried so much of the attack for Toronto throughout the series should climax a great night’s work with the all-important goal.

Contrary to what others may say, these two teams put on a third great display of exciting playoff hockey. The three games in this series have produced some great hockey, and that is the opinion of observers who know the game well. Here in Montréal, a hotbed of hockey with fans standing in line 22 hours for tickets and offering $75 a pair to lucky holders when the sold out sign went up, veteran hockey men said it was the best game of the three. That would be hard to say, as the two in Toronto were the best played in Maple Leaf Gardens this season.

The Leafs made two lineup changes in this game, moving Rollins back into the net in place of Broda and dressing rookie Danny Lewicki for the first time in the series. Rollins, although he showed brief signs of being jittery in overtime, kept the Leafs in the game in the first period.

Rollins blocked numerous breakaway thrusts by keen Montréal attackers and showed no signs of the knee injury that put him out of action in the first game of the Boston series.

Lewicki was a decided asset to the Toronto cause. He played at his old wing spot alongside Max Bentley and Joe Klukay, and showed a fine knowledge of that supposedly lost art of stickhandling. Time and again he and his linemates worked hte puck into the Montréal zone, only to find a clever goalie, Gerry McNeil, protected by some solid defence work by Doug Harvey, Bud MacPherson, Butch Bouchard and Tom Johnson.

But it was Kennedy and his wing partners, Sid Smith and Tod Sloan, who did most of the threatening for the Torontos. Little Howie Meeker tried hard, but his goalless jinx haunted him, and he missed several golden opportunities to score.

The Canadiens were ever dangerous with three effective lines. Elmer Lach, “Rocket” Richard and Bert Olmstead threatened at all times, while the kid line of Paul Masnick, Paul Meger and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion gave the home fans much to cheer about.

Baldy MacKay had two chances to put the Canadiens in front, but couldn’t budge Rollins. He and his linemates, Floyd Curry and Kenny Mosdell, checked well. Billy Reay, the extra centre, saw plenty of work on the Lach and Masnick lines.

The Canadiens appeared to have more balance on the attack, but still couldn’t put the puck in the net, mainly due to the amazing Mister Rollins.

Both goals in regulation time were scored with the defending side shorthanded. “Rocket” Richard put the Canadiens in front before the game was three minutes old, while Sloan sat out a holding penalty. Sid Smith tied the game 1-1, firing a blister through a narrow opening on McNeil’s short side early in the second. Doug Harvey was off for high sticking.

Referee Bill Chadwick didn’t have too much to contend with as the players in the main stuck to hockey. But he brooked little nonsense and once again managed to even the penalties up, four a side – the guy must keep a calculator up his white sleeve.

The Leafs were more dangerous on the power play than the Canadiens, and it will probably remain a mystery to everyone in this building how Sloan, Kennedy, Smith, Bentley, Meeker, Cal Gardner and Harry Watson failed to score during goalmouth jam sessions in the second period. The puck did weird things, but absolutely refused to go into the net. Every one of the players mentioned had at least one good smack at the goal during a wild four minutes. McNeil had the area around his goal hypnotized by his presence. For a couple of minutes, it appeared as though an invisible wall was turning shots aside.

Bert Olmstead paved the way for the opening goal. He raced in on Rollins, who made a great stop, but the puck bounced out. Gus Mortson might have cleared with a little more speed, but Richard, who had been knocked down at the Toronto blue line, jumped to his feet and raced in to wallop the puck by Rollins.

That goal brought Richard’s total playoff point total to 62 in 55 games, and tied him for the record with a former linemate, Toe Blake.

Sid Smith, the Leafs’ top goal man in the spring playoffs and one of the top Toronto men tonight, fired an accurate knee high drive through a narrow opening to tie the score. He skated in behind Max Bentley, who left him a drop pass, and McNeil didn’t have a chance.

That ended the scoring until Kennedy moved into the star role. First Richard and then Geoffrion blasted shots at Rollins that the Toronto goalie juggled and dropped, clearing at the last second. Then Mosdell fired his bid and the fans screamed. It looked to be all over.

Kennedy eased the situation, clearing to the side and Bill Juzda, who shared top Toronto defence honours with Jimmy Thomson, moved the puck into the Montréal zone. There was a wild scramble, and MacKay’s attempt to clear landed the puck on Sloan’s stick. A quick flick to a ready Kennedy, and the game was over.

Gardner was the only casualty, suffering a one stitch cut between the eyes from a high stick. Meeker picked up a misconduct and $25 fine for a remark referee Bill Chadwick did not like.

Once again, the Leafs had the more shots on goal, firing 29 efforts to 25 for the opposition. Both teams will practice here at the Forum early tomorrow, before the wrestling ring is set up for Togo.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 18, 1951

1st Period
TOR PEN – 01:03 – Sloan, holding
MTL PP GOAL – 02:18 – Richard (Olmstead)
TOR PEN – 02:26 – MacKell, slashing
MTL PEN – 02:26 – Geoffrion, cross checking

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:55 – MacPherson, holding
MTL PEN – 04:45 – Harvey, high sticking
TOR PP GOAL – 05:58 – Smith (Bentley)
MTL PEN – 07:35 – Geoffrion, holding
TOR PEN – 17:47 – Watson, interference

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 02:43 – Meeker, misconduct

TOR GOAL – 04:47 – Kennedy (Sloan)

TOR – Rollins (W, 24-25)
MTL – McNeil (L, 27-29)

TOR – 11+13+2+3 = 29
MTL – 10+4+6+5 = 25

TORGoaltenders: Al Rollins. Defence: Bill Barilko, 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), 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.