Game 322 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 2

Game 322
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 2
Wednesday, December 30, 1953
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Maple Leafs spotted the Montréal Canadiens two goals last night, then surged to a 2-2 tie with the world champions on the tingling brilliance of a last period comeback.

It was a tremendous spectacle, best of the seven games between the two strong rivals this NHL season. There was dazzling speed, close checking and great plays, and it all served as a springboard to suggest that the much heralded Jean Béliveau is as great as they say.

Veteran Ken Mosdell, in his greatest year, turned the game into a real battle for the Leafs when he scored just 21 seconds after the opening whistle. The 200 pound Béliveau, an unexpected started in view of a healing fracture of the cheekbone, notched the Flying Frenchmen’s final goal late in the middle period on a slick play.

Slightly outplayed to that point, the Leafs jumped back in contention in the second minute of the third period on a picture goal by George Armstrong. Defenceman Jim Morrison’s long shot, nearing the seven minute mark, tied the game and pulled the release on some sustained roaring by the Gardens crowd of 13,831.

Centre Béliveau, showing here for the first time as a pro, was slightly less than tremendous. If he was out of condition after playing only nine games this term, it didn’t show too much.

Warming up after a cautious start, he kept clear of anything that threatened as a bodycheck and was deceptively dangerous over his little more than 18 minutes on the ice. He wasn’t as fast as he will be, and only one of his four shots at the goal was on the net. On one of the near misses, he displayed a slap shot that nearly tore loose a backboard behind goalie Harry Lumley.

Plagued by first a bruised ankle bone and then the cheek fracture, Béliveau returned at a time when another Canadien ace departed. Right winger “Boom Boom” Geoffrion limped off early in the second period with what coach Dick Irvin described as a severe charley horse in the thigh. Geoffrion refused to have Toronto club doctors examine the injury.

It came when he was checked hard by Ron Stewart after getting a shot away from his point position at the blue-line during a Habitant power play. Irvin charged it was an illegal check. He also pointed to a three stitch head cut suffered by Mosdell in the closing seconds and shouted that the Leafs were “getting away with murder.”

The game was delayed 10 minutes midway through the final period after Gerry McNeil, in the Montréal cage, was felled by an Armstrong shot. McNeil took the shot full force on the cheek but, fortunately, the flat of the puck hit him. Otherwise, there’s no doubt it would have crushed a bone. The little gamecock returned to make a couple of great saves on vicious slap shots by Stewart and that great rushing rearguard, Tim Horton.

Some injury reducing strategy, recently instituted by the Toronto brass, paid off quickly. On the opening Leaf goal by Armstrong, “The Big Chief”‘s shin pad was cut almost through by a Canadien skate in the goalmouth.

Whereas, the area just above the ankle might have been gashed enough to keep Armstrong out for several games, he was saved by copper mesh inserted in the fibre of the pads. The mesh prevented the skate cutting the flesh, and Armstrong escaped with a bruise. The mesh was inserted after ankle gashes, inflicted by skates, sidelined Armstrong and Bob Bailey several weeks ago.

Although there was ill feeling at times, there never was a suggestion of another donnybrook, such as the one that broke out in the last few minutes of a 3-0 Leaf win the last time the Canadiens were here. That game set an NHL penalty record.

Last night, referee Red Storey whistled seven minor penalties to the Leafs and five, plus a 10 minute misconduct, to the Habs. The surprise was that two of the minors went to Béliveau, for hooking and tripping. They were his first this season.

Opening the goal-getting, Mosdell split the Leaf rearguard. Partly turned around, but in the clear, he beat Lumley with a rising backhander.

Béliveau, who refused to wear a specially made plastic mask, supplied the master touch when he picked up the puck at the Toronto blueline after Dickie Gamble had been checked. He rushed in, unhampered, made as if to shoot, drew back the puck, then pulled the trigger in close. It was an ankle high beauty, his third of the term and first since October 15.

Armstrong’s goal came on a backhander as he zipped by the cage after bulling his way in from the side on a pass from Tod Sloan. Béliveau was looking on from the penalty box. “Hopalong” Hannigan set up Morrison’s goal by zigging up the ice past Canadien defenders. He lost the puck inside the Hab blueline and Morrison, who was trailing him, blasted a high one that McNeil could only wave at.

NOTES: Perhaps mindful of Geoffrion’s recent stick swinging duel with the Rangers’ Ron Murphy, in which Murphy suffered a broken jaw, the crowd hooted when Geoffrion took a slashing penalty midway through the first period…Irvin, in vile humour, suggested in a post game statement that the dressing room door be locked to newsmen for at least 10 minutes after each game.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 31, 1953

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 00:21 – Mosdell (Johnson)
TOR PEN – 02:31 – Thomson, tripping
TOR PEN – 07:12 – Horton, tripping
MTL PEN – 09:14 – Geoffrion, slashing
MTL PEN – 12:52 – MacKay, holding

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 07:48 – Kennedy, tripping
MTL PEN – 08:10 – Masnick, hooking + misconduct
TOR PEN – 12:40 – Smith, interference
MTL GOAL – 16:51 – Béliveau (Gamble)
TOR PEN – 17:00 – Flaman, hooking
TOR PEN – 17:54 – Stewart, delay of game
MTL PEN – 19:58 – Béliveau, hooking

3rd Period
TOR PP GOAL – 01:16 – Armstrong (Sloan, Thomson)
TOR PEN – 02:57 – Nesterenko, tripping
MTL PEN – 03:49 – Béliveau, tripping
TOR GOAL – 06:46 – Morrison (Hannigan, Flaman)

TOR – Lumley (T, 15-17)
MTL – McNeil (T, 18-20)

TOR – 6+5+9 = 20
MTL – 5+10+2 = 17

TORGoaltenders: Harry Lumley. Defence: Leo Boivin, Fern Flaman, Tim Horton, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: George Armstrong, Bob Bailey, Gord Hannigan, Ted Kennedy (C), Rudy Migay, Eric Nesterenko, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Bob Solinger, Ron Stewart, Harry Watson.
MTLGoaltenders: Gerry McNeil. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Eddie Mazur, Dollard Saint-Laurent. Forwards: Jean Béliveau, Floyd Curry, Dick Gamble, Bernie Geoffrion, Calum MacKay, Paul Masnick, John McCormack, Kenny Mosdell, Bert Olmstead, Maurice Richard.

TOR – 17-10-7 (.603)
MTL – 21-12-3 (.625)