Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 2
Thursday, February 23, 1961
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec
The Toronto Maple Leafs scored two goals in the final three minutes here tonight for a controversial 4-2 win over the Montréal Canadiens, and the decision moved the Leafs back into first place in the National Hockey League.
The Leafs, with assistant manager King Clancy supervising from the bench in the absence of vacationing George Imlach, scored two goals in 31 seconds late in the game to open up a two point lead on the second place Canadiens.
A crowd of 15,000, the largest of the season in Montréal, didn’t greet the decision with any particular enthusiasm. And referee Ed Powers required a phalanx of police to protect him from irascible fans at the end of the game.
Powers caused great consternation among the fans when he ruled that Bobby Nevin had scored a goal at 17:35 of the third period to break a 2-2 tie and give the Leafs a 3-2 lead. The goal judge didn’t flash his light, and the Canadiens were almost at their own blue line on a return rush when Powers indicated that the Leafs had scored a goal.
The Canadiens were rather agitated at this decision and one, defenceman Guy Talbot, remonstrated so vigorously that he knocked the referee to the ice. Talbot was banished with a misconduct penalty and a game misconduct penalty. When he skated to the dressing room he first gave Powers the universal choke-up signal, which is familiar to most television fans.
When play was resumed after a delay of a few minutes to clear the ice of a few rubbers and the usual rubble that Montréalers hurl over the boards in moments of great agitation, Red Kelly zipped in on the right side to score a clinching goal on the Canadiens accomplished acrobat, Jacques Plante.
This was Kelly’s second goal of the night, and his 20th of the season. Dick Duff, who was also kicked out of the game with two misconduct penalties, scored for the Leafs early in the first period before Kelly produced his first goal.
The Canadiens, who had to fight from behind twice to tie the score, got their goals from Jean Béliveau and Bernie Geoffrion. For Geoffrion, the league’s leading point getter, it was his 39th goal of the season.
The Leafs had the pressure on for most of the third period, but Nevin’s game winning goal came as a surprise. He was about 30 feet out on right wing when he shot the puck.
From the press box, high in the rafters at the opposite end of the rink, it was impossible to tell what happened. The puck seemed to hit a post, a crossbar or some impediment and rebound halfway to the Montréal blueline, and the Canadiens immediately grouped for one of their up the ice swarms, when Powers gesticulated that a goal had been scored, and pointed to the centre ice area for a faceoff. Plante, the Montréal goalkeeper, remained remarkably calm in the next few minutes although other Canadiens, Talbot especially, remonstrated with some vigour.
Duff opened the scoring in the first period with his 15th goal of the season. From about 25 feet out, on left wing, he trapped a pass from Billy Harris and drove his shot into the far side of the net.
The Leafs were shorthanded when Béliveau tied the score, pelting in a pass from Don Marshall. But Kelly, on a Toronto power play, moved the Leafs ahead again late in the period, hammering in a pass from Frank Mahovlich. Geoffrion’s tip-in tied the score again in the second period, setting the stage for the dramatics late in the game.
The Leafs, in scoring their second win of the season on Montréal ice, outmanoeuvred the Canadiens most of the way in this game, and they never at any time gave the impression that they missed the spiritual and inspirational guidance of leader Imlach.
Imlach disappeared after the Leafs’ loss in New York on Sunday, and was later reported holidaying in Florida. His return was delayed by the U.S. airlines strike, and he did not reach Toronto until this evening, at about the time his team was taking its second intermission in Montréal.
But the Toronto players, under Clancy, disported themselves with a rare boisterousness and energy. With fellows like Kelly, defenceman Carl Brewer and Nevin setting the pace, the Leafs out-hustled the Canadiens all the way. They outshot the Habs 41-27.
Gerry McNamara, filling in for the Leafs’ injured goalkeeper Johnny Bower, played a strong game all the way. And so did Plante, who had many more difficult shots to handle.
Duff, who played with more energy and exuberance than he has exhibited in a long time, was tossed out of the game in the second period after he was penalized for hooking the Canadiens’ Ralph Backstrom.
He argued about his penalty on the way to the box, and later he hurled his stick on the ice. That petulant gesture caused him to get his game misconduct. He and Talbot will each enrich the league treasury by $75 for their misconduct penalties.
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 24, 1961
TOR GOAL – 03:03 – Duff (Hillman, Harris)
MTL PEN – 03:34 – Backstrom, roughing
TOR PEN – 03:34 – Armstrong, roughing
MTL PEN – 09:56 – Béliveau, charging
TOR PEN – 10:25 – Shack, hooking
TOR PEN – 15:23 – Brewer, high sticking
MTL PP GOAL – 16:04 – Béliveau (Marshall, Geoffrion)
MTL PEN – 16:45 – Gendron, high sticking
TOR PP GOAL – 17:38 – Kelly (Mahovlich, Nevin)
MTL PEN – 00:45 – Langlois, interference
MTL GOAL – 11:37 – Geoffrion (Talbot, Béliveau)
TOR PEN – 18:19 – Duff, hooking + misconduct + game misconduct
MTL PEN – 19:25 – Hicke, interference
TOR GOAL – 17:35 – Nevin (Kelly)
MTL PEN – 17:35 – Talbot, misconduct + game misconduct
TOR GOAL – 18:06 – Kelly (Nevin)
TOR – McNamara (W, 25-27)
MTL – Plante (L, 37-41)
TOR – Goaltenders: Gerry McNamara. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Dave Keon, John MacMillan, Frank Mahovlich, Bob Nevin, Larry Regan, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.
MTL – Goaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Doug Harvey (C), Tom Johnson, Albert Langlois, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay, Bob Turner. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau, Marcel Bonin, Jean-Guy Gendron, Bernie Geoffrion, Phil Goyette, Bill Hicke, Don Marshall, Henri Richard, Glen Skov.
TOR – 34-17-9 (.642)
MTL – 33-17-9 (.636)