Game 364 – Maple Leafs 1, Canadiens 0

Game 364
Maple Leafs 1, Canadiens 0
Wednesday, December 26, 1956
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

A goal by Al MacNeil, his first in the National Hockey League, gave the energetic Maple Leafs an exciting 1-0 win over the Montréal Canadiens in the Gardens last night.

The rookie defenceman banked in a lengthy shot in the first period, and the Leafs made it pay off with a remorseless checking game that completely demoralized the frustrated Habitants.

Goalkeeper Ed Chadwick, in collecting his fourth shutout, has had busier nights, but he came through with several BIG saves. But rarely has he had such excellent protection as he received from his mates in this game.

The win, the second in a row for the Leafs, shunted them ahead into a fourth place tie with the New York Rangers. And the loss kept the Canadiens from moving into a second place tie with the Detroit Red Wings.

The Leafs, who have suffered grievously during the Canadiens’ power plays this season, had reason to exult at this win. On six occasions, the Canadiens had opportunities to employ their feared ganging act. The Leafs stopped it cold each time.

The ferocious checking of Rudy Migay and Ron Stewart, plus the robust blocking of Jimmy Thomson and JImmy Morrison, successfully stalled the Canadiens while the Leafs were shorthanded. Bobby Pulford and Mike Nykoluk spelled Migay and Stewart in the penalty killing chores and, as the result shows, did a creditable job.

It was a game in which exacting defensive play predominated but, on occasions, particularly in the third period, play raced from end to end at a furious clip, and the crowd of 13,852 raised a deafening din.

The Canadiens, who seldom have to resort to such a manoeuvre, removed roving Jacques Plante from his net in the final 37 seconds, but even the bulldozing rushing of fellows like Doug Harvey and Jean Béliveau, or the dainty stick-handling of Henri Richard, couldn’t produce a goal.

Stewart, Migay, Pulford, Thomson, Morrison, and of course Chadwick, held firm, and finally Plante had to go back in his net with 12 seconds remaining, when the Leafs dribbled the puck into the centre zone.

Montréal defenceman Dollard Saint-Laurent was in the penalty box for hooking when MacNeil scored his goal. Tod Sloan and Ron Hurst had whacks at the puck before it bounced back to MacNeil. He fired quickly, and the puck bounced off Tom Johnson’s hide into the Montréal goal.

The Canadiens thought they had a goal late in the second period, the red light blinked, but referee Udvari ruled that Béliveau had punched the puck into the net a la volleyball.

Maurice Richard wasn’t too noticeable in this game, although in the second period, he narrowly missed the Leaf net on two occasions after grabbing passes from brother Henri. The younger Richard was an elusive puck carrier, but Harvey was their top performer.

You could give all the Leafs credit for their drive and determination. MacNeil, Marc Réaume, Thomson and Morrison bumped the Habs consistently, and this type of treatment didn’t improve Montréal’s classic puck handling. The Canadiens, in the last period, looked as though somebody was peering over their shoulders all the time.

NOTES: Referee-in-chief Carl Voss had a hurried visit from Conn Smythe late in the second period, after MacNeil drew two penalties in a row. Referee Udvari had trouble discovering players whose deportment in the faceoff circle pleased him. He waved Sloan away four times…Tim Horton, who played most of the game on right wing, can still arouse the crowd with his rushes. And there are few players who move faster with a puck…Plante made several excursions out of his net, and twice he was dumped by Toronto players, who take strong objection to his nomadic habits.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 27, 1956

1st Period

MTL PEN – 02:43 – Béliveau, hooking
TOR PEN – 06:32 – Cullen, high sticking
TOR PEN – 10:36 – Sloan, tripping
MTL PEN – 15:45 – Saint-Laurent, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 15:56 – MacNeil (Sloan, Hurst)
MTL PEN – 17:09 – Johnson, cross checking

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 02:04 – Réaume, tripping
MTL PEN – 05:33 – LeClair, hooking
TOR PEN – 14:38 – MacNeil, holding
TOR PEN – 17:31 – MacNeil, hooking

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 00:18 – Johnson, roughing
TOR PEN – 00:18 – Pulford, high sticking
TOR PEN – 05:14 – Réaume, slashing
MTL PEN – 13:51 – Johnson, hooking

TOR – Chadwick (W + SO, 24-24)
MTL – Plante (L, 32-33)

TORGoaltenders: Ed Chadwick. Defence: Tim Horton, Al MacNeil, Jim Morrison, Marc Réaume, Jimmy Thomson (C). Forwards: Brian Cullen, Dick Duff, Ron Hurst, Rudy Migay, Mike Nykoluk, Bob Pulford, Tod Sloan, Sid Smith, Ron Stewart.
MTL Goaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Dollard Saint-Laurent, Jean-Guy Talbot, Bob Turner. Forwards: Jean Béliveau, Floyd Curry, Jack LeClair, Don Marshall, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead, André Pronovost, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard (C).

TOR – 10-16-7 (.409)
MTL – 17-12-5 (.574)