Playoff Game 31 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3

Playoff Game 31
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5
Saturday, April 18, 1959
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

The Montréal Canadiens won an unprecedented fourth successive Stanley Cup here Saturday night, by defeating the irreverent Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 in the fifth game of the final round.

A crowd of 14,790, calm and undemonstrative by Montréal standards, gaped while the Canadiens created hockey history in almost casual fashion. Not until the final whistle did they litter the ice with the usual garbage.

The Leafs, the late season rebels from the cellar, failed to generate any excitement until the final 20 minutes. They were unusually decorous for two periods. They ignited a rousing rally in the final few minutes, but it was too late to upset the mature Canadiens.

Bernie Geoffrion added to his reputation as an outstanding playoff performer by scoring two goals and helping out on a third. It was the second brilliant game in a row for the hard shooting right winger, who has been suffering from vague abdominal pains for most of the season.

In Toronto Thursday, when the Canadiens won 3-2, Geoffrion scored one goal and arranged the other two. It was reported then that this was the therapy he required to restore his muscles.

Rookie Ralph Backstrom, who looks like the newest in the Canadiens’ long line of superstars, defenceman Tom Johnson, and muscular Marcel Bonin were the Canadiens’ other scorers, in a game that was undoubtedly the poorest of the series. Bob Pulford, Frank Mahovlich and Bert Olmstead scored for the Leafs.

The Canadiens flaunted their class outrageously in the first period, when they barged into a 3-0 lead. They outscored the Leafs 2-1 in the second period, and amicably accepted a Leafs drive in the third period, which produced two goals.

The Leafs finished with their usual dramatic flair. They removed goalkeeper Johnny Bower for the final two minutes and 33 seconds, and sicked six sanguine forwards at the Canadiens, but the daring experiment didn’t produce. But, during that interval, while the crowd gasped and gawked, the Canadiens got out of their own zone only twice.

For the Leafs, the loss was an end to one of the most fantastic chapters in National Hockey League history. In last place for most of the season, they won their last five games and moved into fourth place in their final game of the schedule. Then they knocked out the Boston Bruins in seven games in the semifinal.

For the unemotional Canadiens, it was merely a repetition of the usual thing, although there was an extra savour to winning the Stanley Cup this time. They became the first team to win it four times in a row.

Prior to Saturday, only two teams, the Canadiens and the Leafs of 1946-47, 47-48 and 48-49, had won the Stanley Cup three times in a row. Now the Canadiens are in a class by themselves with four in a row.

And even indifferent observers question if the Canadiens can be stopped at four. Prior to this year, the scuttlebutt was that superstars like Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau were mainly responsible for the Canadiens’ success. And it was a strong argument.

But, as a stinging rebuke to non-believers, the Canadiens stopped the ambitious Leafs in give games of a best of seven series without either Béliveau or Richard – each out with injuries.

Richard sat on the bench in Saturday’s game, but didn’t play. He was said to be suffering from a groin injury. Béliveau, who came out of the semifinal with a spinal injury, didn’t play in any games of the final.

But the Canadiens’ talent factory keeps turning out new and exciting stars. For instance, the energetic, eager skating Backstrom gave the Leafs the most trouble. And, in the process, he may have inspired the blasé Geoffrion.

Backstrom, a whirling dynamo all through the series, jolted the Leafs in Saturday’s game with one goal and THREE assists. And his aggressive checking caused great consternation in the Leafs’ end of the rink.

For two periods, the Leafs looked as if they didn’t belong in the same league or the same rink as the Canadiens. But they made a rousing, ribald rally in the last period that had the Canadiens’ normally composed following frantic. The fans gave a gasp of relief when the game ending buzzer sounded.

The Canadiens won the game in the first period when Backstrom, Geoffrion and Johnson pelted pucks behind Bower. Backstrom scored the first one while the Leafs’ Mahovlich was in the penalty box.

The attention of the Leafs on duty seemed to be diverted by other players, while Backstrom indulged in fancy footwork in the Leaf zone and, from 25 feet out, flung a high, hard shot into the far side of the Leafs’ net.

Geoffrion made it 2-0 on a shot from 35 feet out that seemed to be wide of the Leafs’ net. Bower reached to grab the puck but, in his anxiety, knocked it into his own net.

Johnson, the Canadiens’ calm, accomplished defenceman, scored their third goal with a slapshot from the blue line. The puck hit Leaf defenceman Allan Stanley and ricocheted past Bower who, by this time was highly exasperated.

Pulford, who almost equalled his aggressive, hard hitting deportment in the semifinal with Boston, scored the Leafs’ first goal on a power play in the second period. He deflected George Armstrong’s shot from the point past jumpin’ Jacques Plante. Defenceman Carl Brewer, another outstanding Leaf, had slid the puck to Armstrong from the other point.

But the callous Canadiens hit back with two goals, by Bonin and Geoffrion. Bonin was fortunate enough to collect a rebound off a Toronto defenceman’s leg. He proceeded 15 feet in the clear and belted the puck past Bower. An earlier shot by Henri Richard had bounced off a prominent shin directly to Bonin.

Then Geoffrion hammered in his second goal, again while the Leafs were short. Brewer was in the penalty box when the exponent of the “Boom Boom” shot, instead of trying to control a rolling puck, impulsively slammed it into the Leaf net from 40 feet. He took the easy way out.

The Leafs rallied admirably in the third period, and even the notoriously partisan Montréal crowd gave them encouragement. Mahovlich, who played only an ordinary game for him, scored their second goal when he came off the bench and picked up a pass from Billy Harris, and threw a 40-footer past Plante.

Olmstead scored the Leafs’ final goal, while the Canadiens were shorthanded. He was being yanked to the ice by that skillful yanker, Doug Harvey, when he launched a backhander after pouncing on a pass from Gerry Ehman. The shot, which appeared to be from 25 feet out, fooled the infuriated Plante.

The Leafs subjected Plante to a few anxious moments in the final two minutes, when they sent six forwards foraging in the Montréal zone, but, like the great player he is under pressure, Plante repelled their dying thrusts.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 20, 1959; photo property of Yardbarker

1st Period

MTL PEN – 01:44 – Backstrom, cross checking
TOR PEN – 02:44 – Mahovlich, cross checking
MTL PP GOAL – 04:13 – Backstrom (Geoffrion, Moore)
MTL PEN – 10:24 – Harvey, high sticking
TOR PEN – 10:24 – Pulford, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 13:42 – Geoffrion (Harvey, Backstrom)
TOR PEN – 14:03 – Stewart, charging
MTL GOAL – 16:26 – Johnson (Backstrom)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 04:10 – Harvey, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 04:27 – Pulford (Armstrong, Brewer)
MTL GOAL – 09:55 – Bonin (Richard, Harvey)
TOR PEN – 18:29 – Brewer, charging
MTL PP GOAL – 19:25 – Geoffrion (Backstrom, Johnson)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 07:03 – Harvey, holding
TOR GOAL – 12:07 – Mahovlich (Harris, Ehman)
TOR PEN – 15:12 – Baun, tripping
MTL PEN – 15:59 – Moore, hooking
TOR GOAL – 16:19 – Olmstead (Ehman, Mahovlich)

MTL – Plante (W, 30-33)
TOR – Bower (L, 32-37)

MTLGoaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, 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.
TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Tim Horton, Marc Réaume, 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.