Game 324 – Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 0

Game 324
Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 0
Wednesday, January 27, 1954
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Flying Frenchmen from Montréal knocked off a Toronto hoodoo and the Maple Leafs last night on a richly deserved 2-0 shutout.

It was a key game for both teams in that the Leafs could have taken over second place in the NHL race on a victory. Instead, the Canadiens utilized their initial victory at Maple Leaf Gardens in five tries this term, to move out of immediate range on a three point bulge.

A couple of ex-sports columnists, “Rocket” Richard and “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, proved far more adept with stick than typewriter to smash their personal jinxes here. They were the goal-getters on close-in plays.

It was the first goal at the Gardens for each this season, an oddity in that they’re the league leading snipers. Richard now has 20 goals and his fellow right winger 25.

The Habitants, almost checking the Leafs out of the rink in a near perfect hockey display, also shattered a Leafian home record of not being defeated here since late October. Their only previous loss at the Gardens was to Boston, 3-2, October 24, and altogether they now have a mark of 17 wins, four ties and two losses on home ice.

Last night, before 13,537 who braved deep snow to pack the Gardens, Richard opened the goal-getting in the first period and Geoffrion ended it in the middle period.

Richard, who received a tremendous cheer on his first appearance here since he blasted and then apologized to league president Clarence Campbell, gained his goal by the margin of a couple of inches.

He broke clear of his own end to pick up a loose puck with little more than three minutes of the opening period to go. With only defenceman Jim Thomson back, “Rocket”‘s shot was kicked out by goalie Harry Lumley. Lumley came out in an attempt to smother the rebound and Richard, in a partial spin, got there first and gave it a shove. It went over the line a few inches before Tim Horton rushed in and pulled it out with his stick. The red light didn’t blink until referee Red Storey, on top of the play, signalled.

From the way Storey glared in the direction of the light, it may have snapped on a through fright, but there’s no doubt it was a goal.

The only Leaf penalty – to three by Montréal – produced the final goal on a power play in the 27th minute. That ganging act, in coach Dick Irvin’s scheme of things, also brought out centres Elmer Lach and Jean Béliveau for their only ice showing outside of a couple of seconds previously.

With Eric Nesterenko off for tripping, the Habs were all around Lumley. From a goalmouth scramble, Eddie Mazur knocked down the puck with his hand. It appeared to hit Lumley before bouncing out to Geoffrion, who scooped it in.

Lum protested with heat. He claimed it had been Lach who knocked the puck with his hand onto the stick of Geoffrion. That, of course, would have been illegal. If it touched Lum first, then it was a legitimate goal.

The Leafs were without centre Tod Sloan and defenceman Fern Flaman for this one, and that undoubtedly weakened them. It’s most doubtful, however, that their presence would have made the difference. Both were injured Sunday in Detroit.

Overall, the Canadiens were too slick. They were faster and amid some lusty bumping at times, it was the Habs who had the edge. In the first period, Doug Harvey knocked down every Leaf in sight until he got a penalty, and was effective all the way.

Leo Boivin was the Leafs’ bully boy. Taking Flaman’s place, he stepped into any Canadien who ventured close, and he once knocked down three in succession when they attempted to steal the puck off him near the Canadiens bench.

The Leafs were outshot 24-19, but goalie Gerry McNeil, in notching his sixth shutout, had about only five real tough ones to handle. In the face of leech-like checking and a rockbound Montréal defence, most Leaf tries were hurried.

The Habs could do no wrong, and they made the Leafs look futile. Their forechecking broke up many a Leaf rush before it got underway, and both on offence and defence the great Richard stood out like the snowstorm that hit outside.

The only thing at which the Leafs beat the Canadiens was in gathering stitches. Boivin accumulated six on his forehead after running into a high stick in the first period. Harry Watson was cut for nine over the left eye, also in the first period, when he ran into a couple of defenders.

“It could have been my own stick did it,” said Watson.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 28, 1954

1st Period
MTL PEN – 02:10 – Johnson, interference
MTL PEN – 03:39 – Harvey, tripping
MTL GOAL – 16:51 – Richard (Saint-Laurent)

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 05:07 – Nesterenko, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 06:19 – Geoffrion (Mazur, Lach)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 18:04 – Geoffrion, hooking

MTL – McNeil (W + SO, 19-19)
TOR – Lumley (L, 22-24)

MTL – 8+10+6 = 24
TOR – 7+3+9 = 19

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, Elmer Lach, Paul Masnick, John McCormack, Kenny Mosdell, Bert Olmstead, Maurice Richard.
TORGoaltenders: Harry Lumley. Defence: Leo Boivin, Tim Horton, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Thomson. Forwards: George Armstrong, Bob Bailey, Gord Hannigan, Ted Kennedy (C), Rudy Migay, Eric Nesterenko, Sid Smith, Bob Solinger, Ron Stewart, Harry Watson.

MTL – 26-17-5 (.594)
TOR – 23-14-8 (.600)