Playoff Game 28 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1

Playoff Game 28
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2
Saturday, April 11, 1959
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

The Montréal Canadiens reached the halfway mark of their dedicated objective – a fourth consecutive Stanley Cup – here Saturday night, when they repulsed the obstinate Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1.

Defenceman Doug Harvey, who is getting along in years and has an aversion to staying up late, made two skillful thrusts in the third period, Claude Provost applied a finishing touch, and the Leafs’ competent goalkeeper Johnny Bower was revealed as a mere mortal after all.

Earlier, it was the consensus of a perspiring crowd of 14,518 that Bower, in his finest game of the playoffs, had disillusioned the Canadiens with a series of tumbling acts that have only been rivalled on Ed Sullivan’s show. Bower was outstanding.

So the Leafs, still cocky despite a 0-2 deficit in this best of seven final, are in a familiar situation. They were behind by a similar margin in their semifinal with the Boston Bruins, but they still recovered to win.

But even confirmed disciples of Leafs prophet George Imlach look distressed when asked if it can happen again. Reason? A cherubic defenceman named Harvey, a cynical disbeliever who scoffs at black cats, walking under ladders and seances by Imlach.

Harvey, described by his coach Toe Blake as “the greatest” defenceman who ever indulged in this game of shinny, is mainly responsible that the spunky Leafs are behind 2-0. In both games, apart from his unique facility of breaking up plays near the Montréal blueline, he has made sorties down the ice that resulted in winning goals.

The Leafs’ general staff are highly indignant at some of Harvey’s tactics. They contend he has fish hooks concealed on his person, also a couple of extra arms that envelop players who approach him. These extra appendages, of course, are invisible to referees.

King Clancy, the Leafs’ minister in charge of protesting to referees, made a pilgrimage from the press box to referee-in-chief Carl Voss’ rinkside pew in the Forum Saturday, to question Harvey’s immunity from penalties. Voss waved him aside without a hearing.

The Leafs were outplayed and outmanoeuvred throughout most of this game but, paradoxically, they still could have won, because the brilliant Bower played a magnificent game.

Bower, who sometimes gives the impression that his uniform is loaded with jumping beans, described every acrobatic feat in the goalkeeper’s manual. It should have inspired any team, and it probably did the Leafs, but they could not produce at the other end of the rink. Jacques Plante, the Canadiens’ vagabond goaler, wasn’t in a charitable mood either. But the Canadiens outshot the Leafs 44-30, and, in case anybody is dubious, the Canadiens have the latest in weapons.

Tom Johnson, who will probably be an All Star defenceman this season, scored the Canadiens’ first goal early in the first period, while the Leafs had two players in the penalty box and the Canadiens one. Ron Stewart tied the score in the second period, and that was it until Harvey commissioned Provost to score a couple in the final 20 minutes.

This was a gruelling, hard skating game that had moments of colourful, arousing hockey. The second period, especially, was played at a furious pace, and both teams showed astonishing energy and spirit.

The Leafs had their opportunities while Bower was foiling the Canadiens at the other end of the rink, but they couldn’t manufacture a goal. And it wasn’t entirely due to Plante.

Their most glaring omission came in the third period, with the Canadiens leading 2-1. Brian Cullen, swooping in front of the Montréal net, punched the puck wide of a vacant cage with Plante AWOL after an earlier adventure in pursuit of a puck. Normally, Cullen is an exceptionally accurate marksman.

Referee Frank Udvari imposed 17 penalties, a regrettable faux pas, because that made it impossible to have them come out even, and that is frowned on in the NHL these days. Nine of the penalties were to the Leafs.

The Canadiens’ third (?) line of Provost, André Pronovost and Phil Goyette played dogged, determined hockey and, through perseverance alone, they managed to keep the pressure on the Leafs. Provost, who probably shoots a puck harder than 90 percent of the players in the league, made both of his third period opportunities pay off.

Blake tried to create confusion among the Leafs by shaking up his lines. Maurice Richard, for instance, started the game on a line with brother Henri and Don Marshall. But Maurice didn’t see much action. Most of the time, Henri played in his customary role with Dickie Moore and Marcel Bonin.

The Leafs’ defence pair of Bobby Baun and Carl Brewer, and the Canadiens’ spirited rookie Ralph Backstrom, were in the penalty box early in the first period, when Johnson scored the game’s first goal.

Occupants of Pincus planet, otherwise known as the Forum press box, peered down through cirrus formations and smog and thought Johnson’s shot, launched from the blue line, had been inadvertently pawed into the Toronto net by defenceman Tim Horton. It had been Horton’s intention to knock down the puck to spare Bower this chore.

Stewart tied the score in the second period. He trapped a pass from Bobby Pulford in front of the Canadiens net and, in that nonchalant manner of his, steered the puck into the open side of the net. Like all Stewart’s goals, he made it look easy.

Harvey, probably revolted by the spectre of overtime, took charge of the situation for the Canadiens early in the third period, when he raced away from his normal cruising area to prepare the scene for the winning goal.

He barged across the Leafs’ blue line with the puck and, instead of continuing in on the conventional manner, cut sharply to his left and paused, with his motor idling, near the left point. The Leafs flew in several directions, puzzled by this manoeuvre, and Harvey, after a penetrating look, dealt a pass to Provost. Uncovered and unharassed, he rapped a shot past Bower from about 20 feet out.

The Leafs were experimenting with five forwards late in the game when Provost, turned loose by Phil Goyette, who had been given travelling instructions by Harvey, sped on a breakaway and rifled in his second goal. The puck hit Bower’s pads and deflected into the net.

Now, the Leafs have to win the next four games if Imlach is to keep his card in the soothsayers union. He called the Leafs to win the series in six games.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 13, 1959

1st Period

TOR PEN – 03:32 – Brewer, high sticking
MTL PEN – 03:32 – Backstrom, high sticking
TOR PEN – 03:32 – Baun, high sticking
MTL PP GOAL – 05:12 – Johnson (H. Richard, Moore)
MTL PEN – 06:11 – Turner, holding
TOR PEN – 08:11 – Olmstead, slashing
MTL PEN – 08:11 – Provost, delay of game
MTL PEN – 15:15 – M. Richard, tripping
TOR PEN – 18:02 – Stanley, elbowing
TOR PEN – 19:50 – Brewer, spearing

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 02:58 – Duff, charging
MTL PEN – 08:25 – Talbot, hooking
TOR GOAL – 11:41 – Stewart (Creighton, Pulford)
TOR PEN – 19:25 – Olmstead, holding

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 05:02 – Provost (Harvey)
MTL PEN – 06:50 – Geoffrion, high sticking
TOR PEN – 11:56 – Armstrong, roughing
MTL PEN – 11:56 – Backstrom, roughing
MTL PEN – 15:03 – Turner, tripping
MTL GOAL – 18:33 – Provost (Goyette, Harvey)
TOR PEN – 19:20 – Price, charging

MTL – Plante (W, 28-29)
TOR – Bower (L, 38-41)

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, Barry Cullen, Brian Cullen, Dick Duff, Gerry Ehman, Billy Harris, Frank Mahovlich, Bert Olmstead, Bob Pulford, Ron Stewart.