Playoff Game 36 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1

Playoff Game 36
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 1
Tuesday, March 26, 1963
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Maple Leafs, three goals ahead early in the second period, easily defeated the Montréal Canadiens 3-1 last night as the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoffs opened before the smallest crowd of the season in Maple Leaf Gardens, 13,800.

The best-of-seven semifinal continues here tomorrow night. Games are scheduled in Montréal Saturday and Tuesday.

The Leafs had little trouble extending their phenomenal record against the once awesome Canadiens. Montréal has beaten Toronto only once in their last 13 games, and the Leafs have now played the Canadiens seven games in a row without losing.

The series, expected to be a test between the Leafs’ strength and Canadiens’ grace, opened with a resounding victory for strength.

The Leafs forechecked authoritatively, bounced the Canadiens’ fast skating forwards away from the goalmouth, and generally gave goalie Johnny Bower much better protection than is their custom.

The Canadiens didn’t get a shot on Bower in the first seven minutes, managed only two during a 48 second span in the first period when the Leafs were two men short, and scored their only goal during a similar six-four manpower advantage near the midway mark of the second period.

The Leafs’ centre strength, praised by coach Punch Imlach last week when they clinched first place by tying the Canadiens, was again an important factor.

The top, two way performances came from centres Bob Pulford, Dave Keon and Red Kelly; Pulford also shot the first goal. Keon assisted on the second and third, scored by George Armstrong and Dick Duff.

A Montréal centre, Jean Béliveau, scored the Canadiens goal. Béliveau, his right winger Bernie Geoffrion, and goalie Jacques Plante were the most prominent members of the losing cast. Plante, off to a nervous start when Pulford’s shot was deflected between his skates at 3:30 of the first period, emerged as his team’s standout and kept the Canadiens from absorbing a more one-sided defeat.

He was especially evident in the last half of the second period, stopping Kelly twice, and Pulford at close range. He also managed to maintain his balance when Ed Shack, continuing his improved play, charged through and around all other Canadiens to the goalmouth in the first period.

While the Canadiens have been reluctant to admit they have been weakened by inexperience on defence, it was ominously apparent in this game. Although Jean Gauthier and Jacques Laperrière earned coach Toe Blake’s praise, the Leafs were able to control the puck in Montréal territory for prolonged periods.

And it was equally obvious that no Doug Harvey was present to take command, to throw those long, leading passes that formerly made the Canadiens’ edge in speed pay off. Without Louie Fontinato, the Canadiens also lacked anyone to offset the Leafs’ muscle margin.

The Leafs spent the first 102 seconds in Canadiens territory and got their opening goal after a switch from the Kelly-Ron Stewart – Frank Mahovlich, put Pulford’s unit on. The goal produced one of the game’s most rare occurrences – an assist to goaltender Johnny Bower.

Bower kicked a rebound to defenceman Allan Stanley, who found Pulford with a pass to centre ice. Pulford, escorted by J.C. Tremblay, cruised in, fended off Tremblay while manoeuvring into the goalmouth, and delivered a shot which Tremblay’s stick turned past the startled Plante.

Duff’s 15-footer gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead at 1:42 of the second period. Bob Baun started it at the point, and shot to Keon behind the net. Keon’s pass was slapped back while Claude Provost tried to check Duff.

Armstrong completed the Leafs’ scoring four minutes later – with Bernie Geoffrion of the Canadiens off for high sticking, Armstrong caught Kelly’s shot waist high, and tipped it into the top corner. Plante was set for the Kelly shot.

Béliveau, the only Canadien who hit anyone solidly, took Jacques Laperrière’s rebound, and with Bower down, flipped the puck into the empty net. The Leafs’ Ed Litzenberger and Pulford were in the penalty box.

Bower handled all other threats by the Canadiens, including a blistering drive from Jean-Guy Talbot in the first period, two shots by Béliveau in the second, and two sole rushes by Geoffrion. One of the latter, set up by Béliveau, produced Bower’s best stop of the night.

The pace of play, fast and entertaining through the first 40 minutes, slowed down noticeably in the third period. The humidity, oppressive at times, caught up to both teams, and the Leafs’ exasperatingly effective checking frustrated the Canadiens’ attempts to narrow the deficit. Montréal managed only five shots at Bower in the period.

NOTES: Pulford has scored seven of his 20 goals this year against Montréal – and all seven in the Gardens…Mahovlich took eight stitches in his lip after being bounced into the boards by Geoffrion, and Stanley needed three for a cut over the eye…Baun re-injured his knee when charged by Béliveau in the second period…The Canadiens did not report any injuries, and the indications are that defenceman Tom Johnson, out since February 28, will not play tomorrow night…Blake charged that slow ice hampered his fast skaters…A Leaf, name withheld, commented “the Canadiens can’t win. They’ve got no defence.” While not entirely accurate, he pinpointed the major difference in the two teams. The Leafs have the best defence in the league…Blake suggested several of his players could, and will have to, produce improved efforts. Among his exemptions were Plante, Béliveau, Geoffrion and Laperrière.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 27, 1963

1st Period

TOR GOAL – 03:30 – Pulford (Bower, Stanley)
TOR PEN – 08:42 – Stanley, tripping
TOR PEN – 09:17 – Horton, hooking
MTL PEN – 10:05 – Laperrière, holding
TOR PEN – 11:05 – Pulford, roughing
MTL PEN – 11:05 – Harper, roughing
MTL PEN – 18:16 – Harper, tripping

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:42 – Duff (Keon, Baun)
TOR PEN – 03:04 – Shack, high sticking
MTL PEN – 04:32 – Geoffrion, high sticking
TOR PP GOAL – 05:35 – Armstrong (Kelly, Keon)
TOR PEN – 07:53 – Litzenberger, tripping
TOR PEN – 08:30 – Pulford, holding
MTL PP2 GOAL – 08:46 – Béliveau (Laperrière)
MTL PEN – 11:53 – Béliveau, charging
MTL PEN – 18:46 – Geoffrion, slashing

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 07:17 – Talbot, hooking

TOR – Bower (W, 19-20)
MTL – Plante (L, 31-34)

TOR – 10+12+12 = 34
MTL – 6+9+5 = 20

TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower. 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, Frank Mahovlich, Bob Nevin, Bob Pulford, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.
MTLGoaltenders: Jacques Plante. Defence: Jean Gauthier, Terry Harper, Jacques Laperrière, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau (C), Red Berenson, Bernie Geoffrion, Phil Goyette, Bill Hicke, Don Marshall, Dickie Moore, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.