Game 299 – Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 2

Game 299
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 2
Wednesday, March 5, 1952
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Montréal Canadiens were hit hard, right where their pride shows, last night as the Maple Leafs matched them rookie for rookie and thrashed the Habs into the ice with a 6-2 victory.

Sid Smith and Tod Sloan delivered most of the game’s scoring mail with a pair of goals each, but the youthful legs of two teenage hockey babes, and the inspirational play of three other first-year Leafs carried too much authority for the rookie-studded Montréalers.

Eric Nesterenko and Earl Balfour, up from the Marlboro juniors on a trial basis, contributed manfully to the best performance Joe Primeau has coaxed from his Stanley Cup machine this season. This pair, with Jim Morrison, Hugh Bolton and George Armstrong, rounded out a rookie quintet that outdazzled the five famous first year Montréalers.

None of them hit the scoring column, but if there was a better performer in front of last night’s 14,052 audience than Jim Morrison, he could only lose in a whisker finish to one of his teammates. The ex-Barrie Flyer, given a shot at a regular defence job because of some water on Gus Mortson’s knee, played his position like a master.

Morrison will get a lot more play these next three weeks, because Fernie Flaman will have to sit out that space as a result of a fractured cheekbone, picked up in the second period when Doug Harvey sticked him across the face. Harvey picked up a major penalty for the damage, he being more unfortunate than Elmer Lach, whose stick nicked Harry Watson’s lip for a five stitch cut for no penalty.

It was a blistering exhibition of wide open hockey most of the way, with the Leafs holding a definite advantage. Any argument caused by that statement can be settled by a glance at the shooting figures which show the inspired home side lashed 48 shots at Gerry McNeil, 20 of them in the second period, while Al Rollins was fending off all but two of 29 fired his way.

There wasn’t a weak sister in the Toronto lineup. Primeau used so many different sets of forwards it was difficult to follow the pattern, but every man patrolled his beat with remarkable efficiency. There was only one noticeable letdown. In the last minute of play, there was a bit of sloppy clearing and Dick Gamble capitalized on a screened shot.

The Leafs played it at a two goals per period pace. Sid Smith and Tod Sloan did the first period honours, Smitty making a power play pay off with the Canadiens short two men, and Sloan making it 2-0 while Balfour was serving time.

Smith and Howie Meeker counted in the second, Jim Thomson setting up Smitty with a long breakaway pass, and Meeker flipping a high short one past McNeil, with the Canadiens again playing two men short. Thomson set out on a spectacular rush and set up Sloan early in the third and Max Bentley went around Saint-Laurent to fire a sliding shot into the far corner with less than five minutes to go.

Bernie Geoffrion reduced a 3-0 Toronto lead in the second period when the Leafs were a man short. Meger and Geoffrion broke loose with one Leaf back, and “Boom Boom” just jabbed at a return pass and deflected the puck into a corner of the goal for his 27th scoring shot of the season.

The Primeaus played all the way as though they were enjoying themselves, which they undoubtedly were. Thomson played a tremendous game on defence with Morrison, and Cal Gardner caught fire up front. Flaman personified his team’s desire when he came back and finished out the game with a face that was swelling and darkening every second.

Lest any should think Al Rollins spent a pleasant, idle evening in goal for Toronto, they are half right. It was the most pleasant experience he’s undergone in weeks with a three goal cushion after two periods. But the tall chappie kept the Leafs in the game for the first few minutes, when Dick Moore and Geoffrion blistered him with hard shots.

On the play, the Leafs could quite easily have hit double figures in goals. George Armstrong hit the cross bar with McNeil on the ice once, and another time he was right in and Gerry beat him. Bentley also hit the post from close quarters and Sloan took a hurried whack that just whizzed over the bar with the goalie down.

NOTES: Smith and Sloan kept pace at 22 goals each for the season, to draw even with Harry Watson and Bentley, but Maxie got his 23rd later. One of Sloan’s goals came when he was playing centre for Balfour and Armstrong, which shows how Primeau was improvising…Harvey sent Balfour high in the air with a stiff check when Earl kept his head down, but the youngster kept wading in and with any luck, he could have popped in two goals…Moore, by winning an assist on Gamble’s goal with 40 seconds to go, made it 16 consecutive games in which he’s scored a point…Balfour played left wing for Bentley and Armstrong, and Nesterenko was at right wing for Gardner and Watson part of the time. Their presence in the Toronto lineup lowered the Toronto team’s average age on last night’s game to 24.25 years, while the Canadiens, as they showed last night, averaged 25.7 years…Smythe, with tongue in cheek, told three Montréal French language newspapers “if you fellows don’t win by five goals tonight, you won’t win the Stanley Cup.”

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 6, 1952

1st Period
TOR PEN – 00:27 – Thomson, charging
MTL PEN – 01:23 – Moore, holding
TOR PEN – 02:15 – Flaman, holding
MTL PEN – 05:10 – Bouchard, cross checking
MTL PEN – 06:14 – Harvey, delay of game
TOR PP2 GOAL – 06:44 – Smith (Bentley, Sloan)
TOR PEN – 10:53 – Balfour, holding
TOR SH GOAL – 12:16 – Sloan
MTL PEN – 16:03 – Bouchard, tripping

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 04:53 – Smith (Thomson)
TOR PEN – 05:38 – Bolton, tripping
TOR PEN – 10:51 – Thomson, hooking
MTL PEN – 11:54 – Harvey, high sticking major
TOR PEN – 11:54 – Flaman, high sticking
MTL PP GOAL – 12:15 – Geoffrion (Meger)
TOR PEN – 13:37 – Bentley, high sticking + misconduct
MTL PEN – 14:57 – Saint-Laurent, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 15:43 – Meeker (Watson, Gardner)

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:39 – Sloan (Thomson)
TOR PEN – 07:52 – Meeker, high sticking
TOR GOAL – 15:21 – Bentley (Armstrong)
MTL GOAL – 19:20 – Gamble (Moore)

TOR – Rollins (W, 27-29)
MTL – McNeil (L, 43-49)

TOR – 17+20+11 = 49
MTL – 8+11+10 = 29

TORGoaltenders: Al Rollins. Defence: Hugh Bolton, Fern Flaman, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: George Armstrong, Earl Balfour, Max Bentley, Cal Gardner, Ted Kennedy (C), Howie Meeker, Eric Nesterenko, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ray Timgren, Harry Watson.
MTLGoaltenders: Gerry McNeil. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Bud MacPherson, Dollard Saint-Laurent. Forwards: Floyd Curry, Dick Gamble, Bernie Geoffrion, Elmer Lach, John McCormack, Paul Meger, Dickie Moore, Kenny Mosdell, Bert Olmstead, Billy Reay.

TOR – 26-20-16 (.548)
MTL – 31-23-8 (.565)