Game 313 – Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1

Game 313
Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1
Wednesday, February 25, 1953
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Those colourful Flying Frenchmen from Montréal, sinking two early goals within 36 seconds while the Maple Leafs were shorthanded, rode out the fury of a Leaf counter attack last night for a 2-1 decision.

Over the first half of a torrid tussle, there wasn’t any doubt but what the second place Habitants deserved to be in front. But the Leafs took over in the last half, and the fact they could score just once was due to both the wizardry of netman Gerry McNeil and to some dubious local targetry.

The Leafs, who didn’t lose their one point hold on third place only because the Boston Bruins lost to New York, dropped behind a 2-0 deficit on goals by defenceman Doug Harvey and centre Elmer Lach midway through the first period. Through penalties, the Leafs were short two players and the Canadiens one at the time.

The spark for the Leaf uprising was ignited while the Habitants were making the Leafs look somewhat silly during a penalty to Long John McCormack, first of the season for the smart checking utility centre. Four Canadiens set up a defensive, checkerboard system of passing that had the Leafs frustrated and the crowd of 13,784 cheering for a full 30 seconds.

The Leafs came out fighting after that, and with less than four minutes remaining of the middle period, George Armstrong put them back in the game with a goal set up by Harry Watson. Handsome Harry, dazzling in flashes, wound up in his own end, knocked down two Habs before he cleared the Toronto blue line, and skirted the Montréal defence before letting go a hard shot from the side. McNeil saved, but Armstrong banged in the short rebound.

It was a sizzler most of the way, with the Leafs outshooting the Canadiens 28-17, including a 10-3 edge in the second period. The Leafian trouble besides McNeil was that some of the drives hit the goalie as if they were aimed at him, and not where he wasn’t.

There was added drama in the surprise addition of ailing Max Bentley to the Toronto cast. Just out of hospital after a five day siege with glandular fever and a recurring back ailment, Maxie requested permission to play only a few hours before the game. He made five ice appearances, being used only on the power play at the point position.

Bentley’s first appearance brought an ovation. As protection against added cold, he waited in the dressing room until called up. The call came at the 14 minute mark of the first period, when Bert Olmstead left the Canadiens shorthanded through a high sticking minor.

Bentley raced from the dressing room to the ice, took the puck almost from the faceoff, and dashed half the length of the rink before he fell at the Montréal defence. After that, he sat on the end of the Leaf bench awaiting the signal for action, and while he waited he wore a blanket in Maple Leaf colours.

Bentley didn’t make the trip to Montréal for tonight’s return game. He felt too weak. During his eight odd minutes of service, he had one blazer on goal that McNeil fumbled chest high, and he took the puck off “Rocket” Richard at the Montréal blueline in the final seconds. That possibly saved a goal because goalie Harry Lumley had been benched for an extra attacker in the dying moment.

McCormack, once he had unfettered the bonds of a sinless record, became a fighting fool with little more than three minutes of play remaining, and drew an additional seven minutes. He took exception to being boarded heavily by Fern Flaman, and high sticked the Toronto rearguard. They went after each other with flailing fists, but the only gent to stop a blow was linesman Doug Davies. He took a punch in the puss from a McCormack haymaker. Davies also stopped the battle by tackling Flaman, football fashion, and both crashed to the ice.

Despite the threat of coach Dick Irvin that the Canadiens would wear either fishhooks or grease as protection against “clutching Leafs,” the Habs wore only their bare uniforms. And the same Habitants were guilty of the more clutching and holding last night, especially in the third period when referee Bill Chadwick overlooked offences by both sides.

NOTES: Irvin’s post game comment: “We baited for a whale and played a bunch of minnows.”…One of the best Leafs was Tod Sloan, who has shown vast improvement of late from his pivot spot…The Leafs, in addition to shooting directly into McNeil’s pads many times, also missed the net on a couple of their greatest chances. Sloan, for instance, shot wide late in the second with McNeil at his mercy. Leo Boivin hit the post with a long drive in the third…”Boom Boom” Geoffrion backhanded the puck past Lumley in the second period, but the goal wasn’t allowed because Billy Reay was in the goal crease. Harvey scored on a long shot that was deflected past Lumley off Rudy Migay’s ankle. Lach, one of Montréal’s best, banged in the rebound of a shot by Dickie Moore.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 26, 1953

1st Period
TOR PEN – 07:43 – Flaman, holding
MTL PEN – 08:15 – Olmstead, roughing
TOR PEN – 08:15 – Thomson, roughing
MTL PP GOAL – 09:08 – Harvey (Moore, Lach)
MTL GOAL – 09:44 – Lach (Moore, Richard)
MTL PEN – 14:01 – Olmstead, high sticking

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:33 – Johnson, holding
MTL PEN – 06:22 – Richard, hooking
MTL PEN – 08:08 – McCormack, tripping
TOR GOAL – 16:06 – Armstrong (Watson, Boivin)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 16:54 – McCormack, high sticking + fighting major
TOR PEN – 16:54 – Flaman, fighting major

MTL – McNeil (W, 27-28)
TOR – Lumley (L, 15-17)

MTL – 8+3+6 = 17
TOR – 10+10+8 = 28

MTLGoaltenders: Gerry McNeil. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Dollard Saint-Laurent. Forwards: Floyd Curry, Dick Gamble, Bernie Geoffrion, Elmer Lach, Paul Masnick, John McCormack, Paul Meger, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead, Billy Reay, Maurice Richard.
TORGoaltenders: Harry Lumley. Defence: Leo Boivin, Fern Flaman, Tim Horton, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: George Armstrong, Max Bentley, Gord Hannigan, Bob Hassard, Phil Maloney, Rudy Migay, Eric Nesterenko, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ron Stewart, Harry Watson.

MTL – 25-17-17 (.568)
TOR – 22-24-12 (.483)