Playoff Game 30 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2

Playoff Game 30
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4
Thursday, April 16, 1959
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Montréal Canadiens have been looking for a cure for Bernie Geoffrion’s tummy ache all season, and they may have found it in Maple Leaf Gardens last night – a potion composed of one goal and two assists.

Geoffrion, a skillful but moody right winger, seldom looked better. He scored the winning goal after supervising two earlier ones as the remorseless Canadiens beat back the discouraged Leafs 3-2.

The defiant Leafs have recovered from seemingly hopeless situations before in this bewildering season, but it is doubtful if they can work their way out of this one.

The Canadiens, who have an aversion to making mistakes, are now leading the best of seven final 3-1, and require only one more victory on their home ice tomorrow to win their fourth Stanley Cup in a row. A resurgent Geoffrion should guarantee that they can’t miss.

The psychological impact of last night’s loss on the Leafs could be serious. For two periods, they threw their best hurly burly offensive at the Stanley Cup champions. They skated furiously, checked rudely and resourcefully, but the unexcitable champs held them off at arm’s length until they cooled out. Then they moved in and took charge.

Jacques Plante, the Canadiens’ acrobatic goaltender, gave another artistic exhibition of stopping pucks, and the Leafs gave another of their exhibitions of missing nets. Plante, with assistance from defencemen Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson and Bob Turner, repeatedly repelled the Leafs until the Canadiens could muster their own offence in the third period.

Neither team was able to score in the first two periods, because Plante and Johnny Bower, the Leafs’ goaltender, kept executing the most implausible saves. And, although the shots on goal total was almost identical for the first two periods, the Leafs seemed to be the dominant team on the attack. They made every play but the last one.

But they scored the game’s first goal early in the third period to the accompaniment of an ear splitting roar from the crowd of 13,329. The Canadiens rallied with three in a five minute span, and that was the ballgame.

The Leafs came back with their second goal late in the period. They removed Bower for the final minute and sent six forwards into the Canadiens’ end, but it was a futile gesture. The Canadiens checkmated the Leafs’ every move.

Ab McDonald, with his first goal in two months, and Ralph Backstrom were the Canadiens’ other scorers. With Geoffrion, they formed the Canadiens’ most useful line in this game, a fact that was apparent even before the third period. Billy Harris and Frank Mahovlich scored for the Leafs.

The Canadiens were without two of their greatest players in Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau, each out with injuries, but as usual, they always seem to locate capable standbys.

Backstrom, the aggressive rookie centre, was one of their more resourceful players in last night’s game, along with Geoffrion. The Montréal defence, of course, showed the same infuriating ability to disperse and reroute all traffic, no matter how congested, that flowed over their blue line.

The Leafs’ power play, which has never been an instrument of destruction, was unusually weak, and it was doubtless one of the reasons they lost. In the second period, for instance, they had an advantage of two players for more than a minute, but their attack, instead of improving, sagged.

Don Marshall, Claude Provost and Tom Johnson did an outstanding job of checking the Leafs in this interlude, and Plante chipped in with a couple of fine saves. Later in the period, the Leafs had an excruciating time holding back a Montréal power play. The Canadiens kept the puck in the Leafs zone once for 75 seconds, before Ron Stewart finally lifted the puck down the ice.

Harris, who executed a few of his patented phantom-like rushes throughout the game, opened the scoring for the Leafs at 3:45 of the third period, ending Plante’s seeming invincibility.

Dick Duff sent Harris on his way with a pass near the centre red line. Harris carried the puck into the Montréal zone and left it for Ehman, whose specialized duties include scoring goals on occasions like this. Ehman sped to his usual firing area, in the faceoff circle to Plante’s left, and slapped a shot on goal. Plante partially stopped it, but Harris darted in to thrust the puck into the net.

The Canadiens tied the score six minutes later, not an outstanding manoeuvre, but it was still a goal. Geoffrion doggedly stickhandled through, or around, several stationary Leafs and tossed a pass to McDonald. He shovelled a slider 30 feet along the ice, between Bower’s skates and into the net.

Backstrom scored the Canadiens’ second goal, but again it was started by Geoffrion, and improved on by McDonald. Geoffrion threw the puck ahead to McDonald in the corner to Bower’s right. McDonald lateraled directly in front of the Leafs’ cage, Bower trapped the puck, but before he could sweep it aside, Backstrom stabbed it into the open side.

Geoffrion, apparently content that he had done his duty to his linemates, reserved the winner for himself. It occurred on a line change when he had Henri Richard and Marcel Bonin for line buddies. The Leafs’ rude rookie defenceman, Carl Brewer, was trapped down the ice when Richard floated down left wing, passed to Geoffrion in the Leaf zone, and he blew his high, hard one past Bower from 25 feet out. Nobody, repeat nobody, stops Geoffrion on those blasts.

The Leafs, who don’t discourage easily, fought back, and they produced one goal with little more than a minute remaining. Mahovlich, a strong performer all the way, wedged Ehman’s pass between the Left goal post and the sliding Plante.

Bower scampered to the bench with about a minute remaining, but the Canadiens cruised so carefully that the Leafs didn’t get a good scoring opportunity.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 17, 1959

1st Period

MTL PEN – 16:07 – Langlois, roughing
TOR PEN – 16:07 – Olmstead, roughing
MTL PEN – 18:23 – Moore, spearing
TOR PEN – 18:52 – Brewer, elbowing

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 00:58 – Moore, holding
MTL PEN – 01:36 – Harvey, tripping
TOR PEN – 02:00 – Mahovlich, tripping
MTL PEN – 02:58 – Turner, spearing
TOR PEN – 08:26 – Horton, spearing

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 03:45 – Harris (Ehman, Duff)
MTL GOAL – 09:54 – McDonald (Backstrom, Geoffrion)
MTL GOAL – 13:01 – Backstrom (McDonald, Geoffrion)
MTL GOAL – 15:56 – Geoffrion (Richard, Bonin)
TOR GOAL – 18:36 – Mahovlich (Ehman)

MTL – Plante (W, 26-28)
TOR – Bower (L, 26-29)

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