Game 293 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2

Game 293
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday, December 26, 1951
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Appearing slightly overstuffed, the Maple Leafs scrambled through one of their poorer efforts last night and dropped a 3-2 nod to “The Rocket”-less, rebuilding Montréal Canadiens.

The Gardens game, sometimes rugged and sometimes dull, had plenty more rule infractions than suggested by the only two penalties imposed.

The third place Habitants, minus “Rocket” Richard through a groin injury, nevertheless showed enough zoom and zip to take one of the few games they’ve won on the road this NHL season.

Three Hab rookies – Paul Meger, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and Dick Gamble – provided the Hab goals, two of them in the final period, to offset a 2-1 lead the Leafs set up in their best period – the second.

Harry Watson and Tod Sloan popped the Leaf goals but, generally speaking, the Leafs didn’t have enough drive to offset their first home loss in 11 games, after seven victories and three draws.

They were outchecked and outpassed by the hungrier Habs, especially in the first period, when the Leafs didn’t threaten goalie Gerry McNeil with one real scoring chance, and were outshot 12-4. Overall, the Leafs outshot the Canadiens 23-21, but that doesn’t present a true picture.

Before a Boxing night gathering of 13,155, referee Geofre Gravel appeared to be imbued with festive goodwill. He overlooked plenty of hooking, holding and slashing on both sides, and that helped make for some sloppy hockey.

Two newly signed pros helped the Habs more than a little. They were defenceman Dollard Saint-Laurent, who played a steady game partnered with Doug Harvey, and Dickie Moore, a big, chippy kid who never backed down. Each previously played three lend-lease games with the Canadiens, moving up from the Montréal Royals of the Québec Senior League. Saint-Laurent, seemingly a special target for the bodychecking Leafs, took plenty of punishment, especially in the early stages.

Floundering about in the opening period, the Leafs went one goal down when Meger tipped in a pass with just 65 seconds remaining. It was tied a mere 36 seconds after the middle period opened, when Watson picked up the puck, broke fast around defenceman Tom Johnson, and let go a high shot that McNeil never touched as it whizzed by his shoulder.

Little more than 14 minutes later, the Leafs managed their final goal on a power play, while Elmer Lach was off for spearing. The seldom called penalty was most obvious. As Jim Thomson moved in on Lach to check him, the veteran centre lifted his stick and stopped James with a blade to the stomach.

The goal came after a passing play inside the Hab blue line and a shot by Max Bentley. The rebound went out to Sloan beside the net, and McNeil had no chance to make a move. Only seconds previously, McNeil had come back from having four stitches inserted beside his mouth when struck by a deflected puck as he went down to block a quick, close-in bid.

The Habs tied it up in the second minute of the final period, when Geoffrion batted in a passout from behind the net by Meger. The winner went to Gamble at 17:15 on a sizzling slap shot from 30 feet out.

NOTES: Goalie Al Rollins was benched in favour of an extra attacker in the closing seconds, but the Leafs couldn’t get close enough…Gamble replaced Richard on a line with Bert Olmstead and Lach. With Lach gaining an assist and Ted Kennedy of the Leafs held pointless, Lach now holds a two point lead atop the NHL race over Kennedy and the idle Richard…Ex-Leaf Johnny McCormack centred Baldy MacKay and Floyd Curry, and that line was the best checking unit out there. It was pitted against the Kennedy line…The loss cut the Leafs’ second place margin to three points over the Habs…Bobby Solinger was probably the hardest worker for the Leafs, who were inclined to unsteadiness, both on their skates and in their passing…Among the fans were 45 underprivileged kids, taken to the game by the Canadian Progress Club of Toronto West, with Dick Young, ex-president of the Ontario Golf Association, one of those in charge…Fern Perreault, the left winger obtained from the AHL’s Cleveland Barons yesterday, will join the Montréal Royals of the QSL for a while, coach Dick Irvin of the Canadiens intimated last night. There, he’ll be under the eye of the Hab brass.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 27, 1951

1st Period
TOR PEN – 02:42 – Bentley, hooking
MTL GOAL – 18:55 – Meger (Geoffrion, Reay)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 00:36 – Watson (Gardner, Solinger)
MTL PEN – 13:03 – Lach, spearing
TOR PP GOAL – 14:43 – Sloan (Bentley, Smith)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 01:50 – Geoffrion (Reay, Meger)
MTL GOAL – 17:15 – Gamble (Lach)

MTL – McNeil (W, 21-23)
TOR – Rollins (L, 18-21)

MTL – 12+2+7 = 21
TOR – 4+11+8 = 23

MTLGoaltenders: Gerry McNeil. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Dollard Saint-Laurent. Forwards: Floyd Curry, Dick Gamble, Bernie Geoffrion, Elmer Lach, Calum MacKay, John McCormack, Paul Meger, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead, Billy Reay.
TORGoaltenders: Al Rollins. Defence: Hugh Bolton, Fern Flaman, Bill Juzda, Gus Mortson, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: Max Bentley, Cal Gardner, Ted Kennedy (C), Danny Lewicki, Fleming MacKell, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Bob Solinger, Ray Timgren, Harry Watson.

MTL – 14-15-4 (.485)
TOR – 14-12-7 (.530)