Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2
Thursday, March 16, 1961
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec
Bernie Geoffrion scored his 50th goal of the season here tonight as the Montréal Canadiens virtually clinched their fourth successive National Hockey League championship with a 5-2 win over the determined Toronto Maple Leafs.
Geoffrion, who kept a season’s record crowd of 15,011 in a state of suppressed excitement throughout the game, finally clicked for his 50th at 14:15 of the third period after three exasperating misses seconds earlier.
An explosion of sound rocked the smoky Forum as Geoffrion became the second player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a single season. Maurice Richard scored 50 in a 50 game schedule in 1944-45. Geoffrion required 62 games to reach the 50 mark.
The win, the Canadiens’ sixth in a row, gave them a three point lead on the second place Leafs. Each team has two more games to play before the schedule ends Sunday. The playoffs are scheduled to start here on Tuesday, and in Toronto Wednesday.
Jean Béliveau, Geoffrion’s linemate, also broke an NHL record tonight. He assisted on two goals to raise his total for the season to 58. That’s two more than the old mark held by Bert Olmstead of the Leafs, who set it as a Canadien.
Geoffrion, who has scored the incredible total of 18 goals in his last 13 games, is also threatening another NHL mark, that of total points in a single season. He now has 95, one point behind the record 96, held by Dickie Moore, a convalescing member of the Canadiens.
The Leafs, given superb netminding by substitute Cesare Maniago, held the Canadiens for two periods with strong checking and careful positional play. But the Canadiens, taking advantage of a few lapses by the Leafs, broke loose for four goals in the final 20 minutes, and the Leafs could produce only one. The first period was goalless. Each team scored one goal in the second period.
Guy Gendron, Bill Hicke, Henri Richard and Ralph Backstrom were the other Montréal scorers. Dave Keon and Ed Shack scored for Toronto.
But the huge crowd had eyes only for Geoffrion. He tantalized them in the second period when he darted in on right wing, cut in front of Leaf defenceman Carl Brewer, and launched a hard backhander that Maniago moved out to block. And a few seconds later, Maniago dropped to the ice to stop another shot by Geoffrion.
But those were his only scoring opportunities until near the three quarter mark of the third period, despite the determined efforts of Béliveau to feed him passes, many of which went astray.
But Béliveau finally flipped a pass that sent Geoffrion in alone on the Toronto goal. He drew out Maniago, but inexplicably missed the open side of the net, while the crowd groaned in disappointment. Then he had two more rapid whacks at the puck. Maniago kicked out the first shot, and sat on the second.
From a faceoff to Maniago’s right, Béliveau won the draw from Brewer, passed to Gilles Tremblay, and he threw a lateral across the Toronto goalmouth. Geoffrion, cruising near the right goal post, didn’t miss this opportunity. Before Maniago could move, Geoffrion hammered the puck into the open side.
An ear splitting roar followed and Geoffrion leaped high in the air where he was caught by Béliveau. Other Montréal players leaped over the boards and they thrashed around Geoffrion, slapping him, ruffling his hair and embracing him. Canadiens coach Toe Blake looked on obliquely from behind the bench.
The game was delayed for about eight minutes while attendants shovelled up several dozen rubbers and other debris from the ice.
Both teams scored on their power play in the second period, Gendron sweeping in Béliveau’s rebound and Keon tying the score for the Leafs with a low drive that beat Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante on the short side.
Hicke scored early in the third period to send the Canadiens ahead to stay. From a faceoff, he cut across the Toronto goal and drove the puck in from about 30 feet out. Three minutes later, Richard, who was hooked and held by Leaf Bobby Nevin all the way in from the Toronto blue line, still drew out Maniago and tucked the puck in the net.
Shack gave the Leafs a momentary lift when he reeled in to backhand Dick Duff’s pass into the Montréal net, but Montréal cancelled that in 20 seconds on a goal by Backstrom. He cut in sharply from right wing and banked his shot into the Toronto net off the left goal post.
And that was all the scoring until Geoffrion’s dramatic goal.
NOTES: Scalpers were reported to have done a profitable business for this game. Two box seats, normally worth $8, were sold to one eager customer for $100…Maniago, who made several fine stops in this game, played his third game in three nights. His previous two were shutouts for Sudbury in the Eastern pro league…The Leafs outplayed the Canadiens through much of the first two periods, but the Canadiens defence had them stymied. And, apart for a few mistakes in the third period, the Leafs defence was exceptionally adept at stopping the Canadiens attack.
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 17, 1961
MTL PEN – 05:13 – Bonin, fighting major
TOR PEN – 05:13 – Shack, holding + fighting major
MTL PEN – 05:47 – Talbot, slashing
TOR PEN – 08:06 – Brewer, hooking
MTL PEN – 08:44 – Hicke, tripping
MTL PEN – 09:30 – Richard, roughing
TOR PEN – 09:30 – Pulford, holding
TOR PEN – 12:05 – Baun, boarding
MTL PP GOAL – 13:35 – Gendron (Béliveau, Geoffrion)
MTL PEN – 14:00 – Talbot, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 14:44 – Keon (Olmstead, Stanley)
MTL PEN – 19:46 – Harvey, tripping
MTL GOAL – 04:57 – Hicke (Bonin, Backstrom)
MTL GOAL – 07:33 – Richard (Marshall)
TOR GOAL – 08:42 – Shack (Duff, Harris)
MTL GOAL – 09:02 – Backstrom (Bonin, Hicke)
MTL PEN – 11:02 – Béliveau, slashing
TOR PEN – 11:31 – Brewer, hooking
MTL GOAL – 14:15 – Geoffrion (Béliveau, G. Tremblay)
TOR PEN – 19:29 – Shack, high sticking
MTL – Plante (W, 31-33)
TOR – Maniago (L, 31-36)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 8+14+14 = 36
TOR – 10+11+12 = 33
MTL – Goaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Doug Harvey (C), Tom Johnson, 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, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Gilles Tremblay.
TOR – Goaltenders: Cesare Maniago. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Allan Stanley. Forwards: Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Dave Keon, John MacMillan, Frank Mahovlich, Bob Nevin, Bert Olmstead, Bob Pulford, Larry Regan, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.
MTL – 40-18-10 (.662)
TOR – 38-19-11 (.640)