Game 423 – Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 3

Game 423
Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 3
Wednesday, January 25, 1961
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Frank Mahovlich created a Toronto club scoring record last night by shooting two goals for the Maple Leafs in a 5-3 edge over the Montréal Canadiens.

The win lifted the second place Leafs to within two points of the front running Canadiens in the National Hockey League.

In a struggle that was closer than the score might suggest, Mahovlich shot his 38th and 39th goals of the term. Dick Duff, Bert Olmstead and Red Kelly counted the others for the Leafs, with Kelly shooting into an empty cage with 15 seconds remaining in the game. J.C. Tremblay, Ralph Backstrom and Jean-Guy Talbot scored for the Canadiens.

Before 13,587 in Maple Leaf Gardens, the Leafs failed to show any great reason why they could dispossess the Canadiens as Stanley Cup holders. The Flying Frenchmen, for instance, might have gained a draw in the closing minutes, but for some fine stops by goalie Johnny Bower. And, through illness and injuries, the Canadiens were without half of the NHL’s midseason first all star team, Jean Béliveau, Bernie Geoffrion and Doug Harvey.

Mahovlich’s two goals marked his first in the last seven games. His total of 39 is two more than the former mark for a Toronto player in one season. Gaye Stewart shot 37 goals in the 1945-46 season, and Tod Sloan duplicated it 10 seasons later.

Mahovlich has 23 games remaining, in which to break the league mark of 50 goals in one season. That was established by “Rocket” Richard in 1944-45, when a 50 game schedule prevailed in contrast to the 70 of today.

The Canadiens opened the goal-getting in the game’s fifth minute on one of those freak goals that can break a netminder’s heart. A 90-foot hoist by J.C. Tremblay hit in front of Bower and took a crazy hop into the cage.

Seven minutes later, Duff tied matters from in front of the cage after taking a pass from George Armstrong, who was behind the net.

The Montréalers surged right back with Ralph Backstrom counting in close on a rebound off a Leaf defender. There were less than two minutes left in the opening period when Mahovlich, who had chances to score a couple more goals, shoved in his first. It was off a rebound of Al Stanley’s long shot and came with goalie Charlie Hodge on his back.

The Leafs went ahead to stay just 34 seconds after the middle period opened. Olmstead, being checked by Guy Talbot, cut in to beat Hodge.

It became 4-2 in the period’s 15th minute, when rookie Bob Nevin made a perfect passout from behind the Montréal goal line. The puck found Mahovlich’s stick as if magnetized, and “The Big M” slid it into the cage with Hodge out of position.

The Leafs had the better play in the early stages of the final period. Then, the Canadiens took over for a good spell. Talbot fired a screened shot over Bower’s shoulder at 10:56 to cut the Toronto margin to 4-3. From there, the Canadiens had at least three top chances, with Bower making tremendous saves on Billy Hicke and Talbot.

Hodge was benched with 39 seconds remaining and a faceoff in the Toronto end. But the Leafs managed to clear, and with seconds remaining, Kelly gained possession of the puck in the Montréal end. He evaded defenceman J.C. Tremblay and fired a 25-footer into the yawning net.

Just after Olmstead had sent the Leafs ahead 3-2 to open the second period, there was a scramble around the Toronto cage. It happened at the far end of the Gardens from the press box, but there were some observers who suggested that a shot by Marcel Bonin appeared to go over the red line before Bower fell on the puck.

In any event, Coach Toe Blake of the Canadiens was vehement in suggesting it was a goal. He ran behind the rail seats from his spot behind the Montréal bench and showed a clenched fist to goal judge Al Jones. However, that was as far as the threat went.

The Leafs left after the game by charter plane for a game in Boston tonight against the tail-end Bruins tonight.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 26, 1961

1st Period

MTL PEN – 00:42 – Gendron, high sticking
TOR PEN – 00:42 – Shack, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 04:55 – J. Tremblay
MTL PEN – 07:31 – Langlois, hooking + misconduct
TOR PEN – 09:39 – Olmstead, holding
TOR GOAL – 11:55 – Duff (Armstrong, Kelly)
MTL GOAL – 12:56 – Backstrom (G. Tremblay, Hicke)

TOR PEN – 15:14 – Shack, roughing
MTL PEN – 15:14 – Gendron, roughing
TOR PEN – 15:14 – Brewer, slashing
MTL PEN – 17:32 – Bonin, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 18:16 – Mahovlich (Olmstead, Stanley)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 00:34 – Olmstead (Keon, Stanley)
TOR PEN – 09:59 – Harris, charging
TOR GOAL – 14:30 – Mahovlich (Nevin, Kelly)
MTL PEN – 19:34 – Rousseau, interference

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 10:02 – Talbot (Hicke, G. Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 10:56 – Gendron, tripping
TOR EN GOAL – 19:45 – Kelly

TOR – Bower (W, 25-28)
MTL – Hodge (L, 25-29)

TOR – 12+10+8 = 30
MTL – 13+6+9 = 28

TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Bob Nevin, Bert Olmstead, Larry Regan, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.
MTLGoaltenders: Charlie Hodge. Defence: Tom Johnson, Albert Langlois, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay, Bob Turner. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Marcel Bonin, Jean-Guy Gendron, Phil Goyette, Bill Hicke, Don Marshall, Dickie Moore, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.

TOR – 25-14-8 (.617)
MTL – 27-13-6 (.652)