Game 409 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 2

Game 409
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday, February 10, 1960
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Rumours that Maurice “Rocket” Richard was in a state of shinny decrepitude appeared far fetched (also ridiculous) in the Gardens last night, as he supervised the Montréal Canadiens to a 4-2 win over the dejected Maple Leafs.

Mighty Maurice, conscientiously assisted by his young brother Henri, scored two goals and narrowly missed at least a couple more, as the wounded Canadiens despoiled Red Kelly’s debut with the Leafs.

For the elder Richard, the oldest player in the National Hockey League (38), they were his 10th and 11th goals of the season, an ornate total for a feeble old timer who has played only 33 games.

A crowd of 14,631, the largest of the season in the Gardens, seemed convinced that Maurice could continue scoring goals for another dozen or so seasons – if the artistic Henri is willing to continue setting them up. And Henri seems content with the arrangement.

Kelly, the ex-Detroit Red Wings defenceman, made his first start for the Leafs, and the huge crowd seemed to have the absurd notion that the Canadiens would get their comeuppance in this game. After all, they were without injured players Jean Béliveau, Dickie Moore and Marcel Bonin – a trio which has accumulated 67 goals this season.

But the elderly “Rocket,” not as fast on the draw but just as devastating in his aim, chose this occasion to play his finest game of the season. Only some outstanding stops by Leafs goalkeeper Johnny Bower kept him from scoring two or three more goals.

Elusive speedster Ralph Backstrom and industrious Claude Provost were the Canadiens’ other scorers. Provost scored his goal into an empty net with 10 seconds left to play, after the Leafs had removed goaler Johnny Bower in a futile attempt to tie the score.

Billy Harris, who skated furiously for the Leafs in this game, scored their two goals to raise his total for the season to 10. The Leafs had numerous other scoring opportunities but, as usual, they were rejected by the meticulous goaltending of the masked Jacques Plante.

The Leafs sparred ambitiously at times, the Montréal net seemed to be in a state of siege, but the Canadiens always were poised, deliberate, unhurried. They refused to make mistakes while the scurrying Leafs made them by the dozen.

Kelly, the 32 year old defenceman, received a loud ovation from the crowd when he made his first appearance. And he played an adequate game, at centre, at left wing, on the power play and at killing penalties. But, unfortunately for the Leafs, the “Rocket” would not be upstaged in this game.

Last night’s victory, the Canadiens’ 34th in 53 games, gave them a 21 point lead on the second place Leafs. The Canadiens have lost only 10 games, and, paradoxically, five of those losses have been inflicted by the last place Rangers.

Henri Richard set up both goals for his brother with his sleight-of-hand playmaking. He set up a few others that Maurice didn’t finish, because of the stubbornness of Bower. On one power play in the third period, the elder Richard blasted three shots on goal, but Bower kicked each one out.

The Leafs’ youthful defenceman Carl Brewer was trapped up the ice on the Canadiens’ first two goals. After a goalless first period, the Canadiens scored twice in about two minutes in the second period.

Maurice scored his first on a breakaway with Henri. Henri hit the Leaf goalpost, and Maurice carefully tucked in the rebound with Bower grovelling on the ice. The breakaway started when Brewer, for the second time in the game, broke his stick at the Montréal blueline while trying to launch a slap shot.

Ab McDonald, who was pinned on the boards also near the Montréal blue (also by Brewer) started the play for the Canadiens’ next goal. He threw the puck ahead, Bernie Geoffrion gave it another push to Backstrom, and he whirled in to lash a 25-footer into the far side of the net.

Plante, who had seemed invincible for most of the first two periods, was finally beaten by Harris late in the second period. Harris tipped in a blast fired by Bobby Baun from the right point. But Maurice Richard, with one second left in the period, restored Montréal’s two goal lead, finishing off a pretty passing play with Henri and Doug Harvey.

Harris revived the Leafs near the three quarter mark of the third period, by scooting in to lift in Johnny Wilson’s rebound, but that was it for the Leafs. With Bower out in the last minute of play, Don Marshall turned Provost loose, and he scored in the empty net.

NOTES: Leafs manager-coach George Imlach insisted afterward that Montréal’s third goal (“Rocket”‘s second) was offside…Marshall needed 10 stitches for a cut on his left temple, caused by Tim Horton’s shot late in the game…The Canadiens have scored 45 goals on their power play this season.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 11, 1960

1st Period

TOR PEN – 05:45 – Ehman, holding
MTL PEN – 11:15 – Talbot, hooking

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 02:32 – M. Richard (H. Richard)
MTL GOAL – 04:15 – Backstrom (McDonald, Geoffrion)
MTL PEN – 15:00 – Langlois, kneeing
TOR GOAL – 17:36 – Harris (Baun, Duff)
TOR PEN – 18:39 – Horton, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 19:59 – M. Richard (H. Richard, Harvey)

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 12:07 – Brewer, tripping
TOR GOAL – 14:28 – Harris (Wilson, Stanley)
MTL EN GOAL – 19:50 – Provost (Marshall)

MTL – Plante (W, 36-38)
TOR – Bower (L, 36-39)

MTL – 11+12+17 = 40
TOR – 13+13+12 = 38

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

MTL – 34-10-9 (.726)
TOR – 24-21-8 (.528)