Game 455 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 3

Game 455
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 3
Wednesday, March 20, 1963
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Dave Keon’s dramatic goal, with eight seconds of play left in the Gardens last night, gave the Toronto Maple Leafs their first National Hockey League championship in 15 years.

Keon’s goal, his second of the game, enabled the Leafs to tie the Montréal Canadiens 3-3 and extend their undefeated streak to 10 games, seven wins and three ties. The one point they collected is sufficient to guarantee the Leafs of first place, regardless of what happens in remaining games.

The Leafs, who finish their schedule with a home-and-home series on the weekend with the Detroit Red Wings, will open their defence of the Stanley Cup in the Gardens next Tuesday. They will oppose the team that finishes in third place in a best-of-seven series. The second game of the set will also be played in the Gardens next Thursday.

Keon, who has bailed the Leafs out of difficult situations on numerous other occasions, scored the tying goal after the Leafs had removed goalkeeper Don Simmons in the final minute to release another player to forage in the Montréal zone. The move almost backfired seconds before Keon scored, when Dick Moore’s long shot barely missed the vacant Toronto net.

A crowd of 14,372 had almost conceded a Montréal victory when Keon, from barely outside the Canadiens goal crease, flipped the puck past goalie Jacques Plante. Dick Duff, in the corner to Plante’s right, had wrestled the puck away from Montréal rookie defenceman Terry Harper, and slid it to Keon to set up the rousing finish.

Earlier, the Leafs seemed to be on their way to an emphatic win. Halfway through the second period, they were leading 2-0, but the Canadiens scored one goal late in the period and two more in the third, before Keon started his heroics.

Bobby Pulford was the Leafs’ other scorer. Ralph Backstrom scored twice for the Canadiens, Moore once.

The Canadiens moved into a second place tie with the slumping Chicago Black Hawks, and they meet the Hawks in Montréal on Saturday. The Canadiens and Hawks are four points behind the Leafs, each with two games left to play. Even if either of those teams should tie the Leafs in points, the Toronto team would keep first place because it has won more games.

The game was played with exceptional care and caution most of the way, as befits a couple of teams mindful of bonus money. The checking, although not as abusive as in some other recent games, was infuriating and effective.

Leafs manager-coach George Imlach, whose persistence in playing Simmons in goal in recent games has been questioned by hockey swami, was again vindicated. Simmons made several superlative saves when the Leafs’ defences relaxed. The Canadiens, in the second half of the game, were more persistent on the attack, but Simmons and Keon balanced the scales for the Leafs.

The Leafs scored their first two goals on power plays, and the Canadiens’ first goal also came when they had a player advantage.

Frank Mahovlich, the Leafs’ leading scorer, missed his second successive game – he is ill with the flu. They also lost defenceman Bob Baun in the first period – Baun suffered a knee injury. The Canadiens were minus defencemen Tom Johnson and Lou Fontinato, forwards Gilles Tremblay and Phil Goyette.

Keon, who has scored eight goals against the Canadiens this season, gave the Leafs the lead early in the second period. He romped in on right wing and, when it seemed he had gone too far to shoot, he flung a hard backhander, and the puck sailed past Plante into the far side of the net.

Pulford made it 2-0 halfway through the period. From a few feet inside the Montréal blue line on left wing, he fired a shot. Plante caught the puck with his left hand, but dropped it and the puck curled across the goal line.

Moore scored his 24th goal of the season late in the period after Jacques Laperrière’s shot had bounced off Simmons’ chest. Moore was startled to discover the puck at his feet, but he recovered his composure, pulled the puck back and flipped it in the Toronto net.

Backstrom scored twice in the third period. For his first goal, he was cruising in front of the Toronto goal when Bill Hicke tossed him a pass from the right corner. Backstrom promptly rammed a backhand shot in the right side. He scored his second on a clever play set up by Don Marshall, who passed around Leafs defenceman Kent Douglas. Backstrom picked up the puck and drilled a low shot past Simmons.

That looked like the winner, until the elusive Keon scored his 28th of the season with eight seconds left in the game.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 21, 1963

1st Period

TOR PEN – 01:20 – Armstrong, tripping
MTL PEN – 14:08 – Backstrom, high sticking
TOR PEN – 14:08 – Pulford, high sticking
MTL PEN – 19:05 – Backstrom, tripping

2nd Period
TOR PP GOAL – 00:23 – Keon (Kelly)
MTL PEN – 08:18 – Harper, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 09:39 – Pulford (Kelly, MacMillan)
TOR PEN – 17:27 – Stanley, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 18:30 – Moore (Richard, Laperrière)
MTL PEN – 19:09 – Talbot, holding

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 05:13 – Backstrom (Hicke, Marshall)
MTL PEN – 08:41 – Backstrom, hooking
TOR PEN – 09:32 – Douglas, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 12:44 – Backstrom (Marshall)
TOR EA GOAL – 19:52 – Keon (Nevin, Kelly)

TOR – Simmons (T, 29-32)
MTL – Plante (T, 22-25)

TORGoaltenders: Don Simmons. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Kent Douglas, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Dick Duff, Billy Harris, Dave Keon, Ed Litzenberger, John MacMillan, Bob Nevin, Bob Pulford, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.
MTLGoaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Terry Harper, Jacques Laperrière, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau (C), Red Berenson, Bernie Geoffrion, Bill Hicke, Don Marshall, Bill McCreary Sr., Dickie Moore, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau.

TOR – 35-21-12 (.603)
MTL – 28-18-22 (.574)