Game 329 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1

Game 329
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1
Wednesday, March 17, 1954
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Maple Leafs lowered the boom on the Montréal Canadiens last night, then stepped over it and into the NHL’s second place on a 3-1 decision.

With the Irish Regiment band and the Leafs playing their hearts out for King Clancy on St. Patrick’s Night, the victory could provide the key to retention of the runner-up spot. It gave the Leafs a one point margin over the Habitants with each club having two league games remaining.

Before a roaring, packed Gardens gathering of 14,572, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion shot the Flying Frenchmen into a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute of play. Gangling Eric Nesterenko, amid his most glittering display of the season, evened the score 10 minutes later, and Tod Sloan whipped in the winner late in the second period.

Then, in a dazzling finale, a Canadiens gamble exploded in coach Dick Irvin’s long face with just 38 seconds to play. That was when Nesterenko helped set up the clincher scored by Rudy Migay on an empty net.

With the Leafs’ “Hopalong” Hannigan sweating out a penalty, and goalie Jacques Plante benched for an additional forward, the Leafs were outmanned on the faceoff. Then, the puck was cleared into the Habitant end.

Migay and Nesterenko raced down and Migay checked the puck away from defenceman Doug Harvey. It went into a corner with Nesterenko in pursuit. He passed it out, right onto the stick of Migay, standing in front of the net. Migay had no trouble lifting it in.

The Leafs managing director, Conn Smythe, seeing his team in action for the first time since returning from a Florida rest, commented “this was the big one and we won it without the captain (Ted Kennedy).”

That was an accomplishment because the Leafs had missed him plenty in losing two games to the Boston Bruins last weekend. Last night’s was centre Kennedy’s third game on the sidelines with a groin injury, but he’s expected back for the clashes with New York and Detroit come Saturday and Sunday.

While the Leafs played it hard last night, goalie Harry Lumley stood out as a major factor. He was tremendous at times, especially in the face of some terrific pressure by the Habs in that final period.

For instance, there was the time he rose to the heights with a toe save on Bert Olmstead. He followed that up with a glittering stop of a hot drive to a low corner by Geoffrion. Then, with Canadiens all around him and the Leafs apparently weakening, he grabbed a quick shot by the same pesky Olmstead and earned the Leafs a faceoff breather.

Lumley’s continued greatness left him two goals up on Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk in their see-saw fight toward the Vézina Trophy and the $1,000 bonus. The advantage is definitely with Lum, in that Detroit has three games to play, one more than Toronto.

While the Leafs appeared flustered in their own end at times, defencemen Jim Morrison, Tim Horton and Hugh Bolton gave strong displays in the absence of Jim Thomson. Big Jeem was given a night off so as not to aggravate a nose fracture and a sore shoulder.

It was Morrison who set up the Sloan goal that proved the winner. Morrison carried the puck out of the Leaf end and, partially stopped at the Hab defence, shot a pass over to Sloan, in the clear. He beat Plante with a low, short shot. Nesterenko’s goal came four seconds after Sloan returned from a penalty and it caught the Canadiens with their power play act of five forwards on the ice.

Nesterenko broke from his blueline and, with Jean Béliveau backing up in the Canadien end, slipped the puck through Béliveau’s legs. He picked it up on the other side in a burst of speed and beat Plante from close-in.

Montréal’s opening goal was made possible by Béliveau. He snared the puck from a scramble in the corner and passed out to Geoffrion, whose 28th goal from 10 feet out zipped between Lumley’s legs.

NOTES: Bolton, out since late December with injuries, received Smythian praise and also three stitches in his hip from an unknown’s skate…Besides goalie Gerry McNeil, the Habs were without defenceman Jim MacPherson, centre Ken Mosdell, an all star contender, and winger Baldy MacKay. All are on the injured list…Clancy wore a green tie, of course, aworned with gold harps.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 18, 1954

1st Period
TOR PEN – 01:39 – Stewart, charging
TOR PEN – 03:50 – Boivin, holding
MTL PEN – 04:11 – Béliveau, interference
MTL GOAL – 07:36 – Geoffrion (Béliveau)
TOR PEN – 08:17 – Armstrong, interference
MTL PEN – 14:15 – Mazur, holding
TOR PEN – 15:33 – Sloan, tripping
TOR GOAL – 17:37 – Nesterenko
MTL PEN – 17:47 – Lach, elbowing

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 00:30 – Horton, tripping
MTL PEN – 09:00 – Béliveau, high sticking
TOR GOAL – 15:03 – Sloan (Morrison, Boivin)
TOR PEN – 15:23 – Sloan, slashing
MTL PEN – 18:24 – Meger, holding
TOR PEN – 20:00 – Boivin, hooking

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 01:58 – Saint-Laurent, holding
MTL PEN – 16:58 – Olmstead, tripping
TOR PEN – 18:23 – Hannigan, hooking
TOR EN SH GOAL – 19:22 – Migay (Nesterenko)

TOR – Lumley (W, 22-23)
MTL – Plante (L, 21-23)

TOR – 8+5+11 = 24
MTL – 4+10+9 = 23

TORGoaltenders: Harry Lumley. Defence: Leo Boivin, Hugh Bolton, Fern Flaman, Tim Horton, Jim Morrison. Forwards: George Armstrong, Bob Bailey, Gord Hannigan, Danny Lewicki, Rudy Migay, Eric Nesterenko, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ron Stewart, Harry Watson.
MTLGoaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Butch Bouchard (C), Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Eddie Mazur, Dollard Saint-Laurent. Forwards: Jean Béliveau, Floyd Curry, Lorne Davis, Bernie Geoffrion, Elmer Lach, Paul Masnick, John McCormack, Paul Meger, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead, Maurice Richard.

TOR – 32-22-14 (.574)
MTL – 33-24-11 (.566)