Playoff Game 27 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3

Playoff Game 27
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1
Thursday, April 9, 1959
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

The Montréal Canadiens, in earnest pursuit of their fourth successive Stanley Cup, surged for two goals in the third period here tonight to defeat the fiery Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 in the first game of the best of seven final.

And, despite the tenacity of the Leafs, who even had a 2-1 lead for several minutes in the first period, the dominant lesson in this game was that the Canadiens would be the first team to win the Stanley Cup four years in a row.

The Leafs played satisfactorily. They had occasional spurts of frenzied energy, but throughout it all, the Canadiens conducted themselves with a poised nonchalance that suggested they would not be a party to any more Leaf miracles.

The Canadiens’ robust defence, anchored by the incomparable Doug Harvey and robust assistants like Tom Johnson and Bob Turner, made it exceedingly difficult, sometimes impossible for the Leafs to execute plays that had bewildered the Boston Bruins in the semifinal. The Montréal defence persistently broke up plays that had fooled the Bruins’ rearguards.

Marcel Bonin, who has been impersonating a superstar for the past few weeks, scored the Canadiens’ winning goal shortly after the halfway mark of the third period, his eighth in seven playoff games. Then he set up the insurance goal, scored by Dickie Moore four minutes later.

Henri Richard, rookie Ralph Backstrom and André Pronovost were the other Montréal scorers. Dick Duff, Billy Harris and Ron Stewart scored for the Leafs.

In comparison with the turbulent Boston-Toronto series, this game was a quiet, almost sedate affair most of the way, and the Montréal crowd of 14,370, normally noisy, had a few occasions to raise a rumpus.

Referee Eddie Powers, the great gesticulator, imposed 16 penalties, 10 to the Leafs, including a major to Bobby Baun and a 10 minute misconduct to Billy Harris. The Canadiens, whose power play is mentioned only in frightened whispers throughout the league, produced only one goal while they had a player advantage.

Baun incurred his major near the three quarter mark of the third period, for a bout with Henri Richard directly in front of the Leafs’ goal. And it might have been started innocently (?) enough by Leaf goalkeeper Johnny Bower, who clipped Baun with his stick in anxiety to drive interlopers out of his goal crease.

Baun immediately swung at Henri Richard, and they tumbled to the ice. Several other players moved in, and the belligerence dissipated quickly.

Harris received his misconduct late in the third period after protesting a hooking penalty on Harvey. Powers at first didn’t call the hooking infraction. But he conferred with his linesmen and waved Harris off.

The anticipated hard hitting, bristling offensive game that had been promised by Leafs’ manager-coach George Imlach failed to materialize. The checking was close at times, but there was a pronounced absence of body checking.

Maurice “Rocket” Richard, who has been recovering from a foot injury for the past three months, made his long awaited return in this game, but he made only two brief appearances – on power plays.

It was the Canadiens’ so-called lower echelon players, fellows like Backstrom, Pronovost, Claude Provost, Phil Goyette, and of course Bonin, who caused the Leafs the most trouble in this game. Backstrom, the sturdy rookie, was the most imposing player on the ice for the first two periods.

Bower, the Leafs’ nimble netminder, played exceptionally well, especially in the second period, when the Canadiens bombed him repeatedly. He made one remarkable, tumbling save on a close-in shot fired back Backstrom. The Canadiens outshot the Leafs 36-27.

Henri Richard scored the game’s first goal 36 seconds after play had started. Defenceman Jean-Guy Talbot, who did some fine rushing for the Canadiens, carried the puck into the Leafs zone and fired a shot that bounced off Allan Stanley’s shins. Moore picked up the puck in the faceoff circle to Bower’s left, shot, and Henri deflected it into the Toronto net.

The Leafs tied it up four minutes later, on a clever solo dash by Duff while the Leafs were shorthanded. He poked the puck away from Moore at the Leafs blue line and sped all the way unmolested. Goalkeeper Jacques Plante came out to intercept him, but Duff stepped around him and flipped the puck in the open net.

Harris sent the Leafs ahead within two minutes, tipping Tim Horton’s drive from the point past the diving Plante.

But Backstrom tied it again for the Canadiens. Leaf defenceman Bobby Baun lunged at Backstrom coming across the Montréal blueline, but missed, and the Toronto player was trapped down the ice. Backstrom passed the puck to Provost, he lugged it up the ice, gave it back to Backstrom in front of the Toronto net, and he drew out Bower before rapping the puck in.

Pronovost, who was parked 10 feet or so directly in front of the Leafs’ net, had a deflected shot gravitate to him late in the second period, and he pounded it into the left side of the Leafs’ net for the Canadiens’ third goal. And it came a few seconds after Duff had a great scoring opportunity foiled, when Plante sprawled to smother his close-in shot.

But the Leafs tied the score before the period ended. Energetic Bert Olmstead batted the puck into the corner from a faceoff in the Canadiens end, raced after it, and flung it behind the net and around the boards to the other point. Carl Brewer promptly launched a shot that was deflected into the Montréal net by Stewart.

Bonin scored the winner in the third period, another deflection on a backhander by Henri Richard. Then, when the Leafs were shorthanded a few minutes later, he checked Bob Pulford, looped around the net, and passed to Moore, who hammered a 20-footer past Bower.

NOTES: Dave Creighton, who subbed for the injured Larry Regan on a line with Duff and George Armstrong, played well. He helped kill a few penalties, and he was also used on the Leafs power play…Albert Langlois, an angular defenceman, looked impressive for the Canadiens in the first two periods…Duff was travelling at top speed for the Leafs in the early part of the game. Stanley played another strong game on the Leafs’ defence…The second game of the series will be played here Saturday. Then it shifts to Toronto for games on Tuesday and Thursday.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 10, 1959

1st Period

MTL GOAL – 00:36 – H. Richard (Moore, Talbot)
MTL PEN – 01:13 – Geoffrion, high sticking
TOR PEN – 03:25 – Pulford, elbowing
TOR SH GOAL – 04:53 – Duff
TOR GOAL – 06:24 – Harris (Horton)
TOR PEN – 07:00 – Armstrong, interference
MTL GOAL – 15:41 – Backstrom (Provost)
TOR PEN – 18:51 – Brewer, hooking
MTL PEN – 19:24 – Geoffrion, tripping

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 02:51 – Brewer, hooking
MTL PEN – 07:07 – Johnson, interference
MTL GOAL – 16:28 – Pronovost (Goyette, Provost)
TOR GOAL – 18:26 – Stewart (Brewer, Olmstead)

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 01:28 – Mahovlich, high sticking
MTL PEN – 01:28 – Bonin, roughing
TOR PEN – 07:13 – Armstrong, high sticking
MTL PEN – 07:13 – Turner, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 11:59 – Bonin (H. Richard, Harvey)
TOR PEN – 14:02 – Baun, kneeing
MTL PP GOAL – 15:02 – Moore (Bonin, H. Richard)
TOR PEN – 15:32 – Baun, fighting major
MTL PEN – 15:32 – H. Richard, fighting major
TOR PEN – 16:54 – Harris, hooking + misconduct

MTL – Plante (W, 21-24)
TOR – Bower (L, 26-31)

MTLGoaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Albert Langlois, Jean-Guy Talbot, Bob Turner. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Marcel Bonin, Bernie Geoffrion, Phil Goyette, Don Marshall, Ab McDonald, Dickie Moore, André Pronovost, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard (C).
Goaltenders: Johnny Bower. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Tim Horton, Noel Price, Marc Réaume, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Dave Creighton, Dick Duff, Gerry Ehman, Billy Harris, Frank Mahovlich, Bert Olmstead, Bob Pulford, Ron Stewart.