Playoff Game 43 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2

Playoff Game 43
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 3
Tuesday, March 31, 1964
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Bob Pulford threw himself a birthday party last night but his friends gave the presents to his enemies.

That was the story as Henri Richard’s goal in the final minute of play gave the Montréal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup semifinal series.

Pulford celebrated his 28th birthday by scoring both Toronto goals for 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but his teammates gave away two goals in the final two minutes and 35 seconds of play to throw a damper on 14,436 guests.

This was a game the Leafs had no right to lose. They had chances to open up an unbeatable gap in the first period alone. But again, goalie Charlie Hodge and a defiant goalpost balked them of almost certain victory.

Ironically, the mistakes that beat them were committed by two Toronto veterans who had distinguished themselves from the opening whistle.

Red Kelly cleared the puck on J.C. Tremblay’s stick for the shot that tied the score at 17:25 of the final period.

Allan Stanley gave the puck to Richard for the winning goal at 19:35.

Richard took advantage of Stanley’s faux pas by dramatically ending an 11-game scoring drought. He swooped in on Bower, gave a shoulder twitch left, faked right, then shifted left to slide the puck home as the veteran Toronto goalie went for the feint.

Tremblay rifled home the tying goal on which Bower appeared to be screened by milling players. Kelly, in trying a clearing pass, didn’t flip it hard enough. Tremblay accepted the gift, shifted in a few paces and pulled the trigger.

Bill Hicke and Ralph Backstrom were awarded assists for some unknown reason. These were given by Chicago officials, which may explain some of the Black Hawk scoring totals.

Until then, Pulford was the story of the game. He had taken a pass from Stanley to rifle a shot past Hodge into the far corner at 3:40 of the first period for the game’s opening score.

Claude Provost got it back 41 seconds later when he tapped his own rebound into an open side with Bower off balance from the original save.

Near the end of the second period, Ron Stewart shot the puck into Hodge’s pad. The Montréal goaler dropped to his knees and Pulford swooped in to jab the puck between his legs to retrieve the lead again for the Leafs.

The Leafs lifted Bower for an extra attacker with 17 seconds to go and forced a faceoff in the Montréal end with 13 second left. However, all the firepower contained in the persons of Frank Mahovlich, Don McKenney, Dave Keon, Andy Bathgate, Kelly and Pulford couldn’t produce a shot on Hodge.

Toronto had an edge of 30-29 on shots, but Hodge lived a more dangerous life than Bower. The Leafs stormed in on the little guy and when he wasn’t good he was exceptionally fortunate.

In the second period, early, he slid to the corner to block a shot and the puck landed on top of his pads. As he moved, the puck dropped between pads and post, but stayed out.

Seconds later, McKenney pounced on a rebound and drove his shot off the post. At 7:30 of the third period, Mahovlich flashed in from the right side and blasted the puck off the inside of the far post.

Given those reprieves to go with others bestowed by Hodge, the Canadiens refused to panic. In the last five minutes they applied pressure, and this energy paid dividends when it forced the Leafs into the errors that beat them.

Coach Toe Blake of the Canadiens shifted his forwards to make up for the loss of Gilles Tremblay, who broke his ankle in Saturday’s game. He used Richard instead of Ralph Backstrom at centre between Dave Balon and Claude Provost. Backstrom centred the third line with various partners and the change seemed to benefit both centres.

Bobby Baun’s nose took a rough beating during the game. The game wasn’t a minute old before Balon charged him into the boards and the Toronto defenceman rammed his nose against the glass.

The game was delayed a few minutes while Toronto trainer Bobby Haggert revived the dazed Baun. Almost midway in the third period, Baun dropped to block a flip shot by Provost. The puck struck him on the nose and four stitches were required to close the wound.

Baun and Balon continued their ungentle dispute for the rest of the game and each trapped the other into a minor penalty.

Early in the third period, Baun rode Balon into the boards, almost shoving Balon’s head into the laps of spectators. As Baun skated away, Balon tapped him over the shoulder with his stick.

Referee Vern Buffey signalled a slashing penalty but the penalty timekeeper didn’t understand the signal and the announcer called it charging. Buffey skated to the penalty bench and again signalled slashing but no public correction was made.

NOTES: Balon was also victim of teammate Bernie Geoffrion. “The Boomer” let go with one of his slapshots and it hit Balon’s foot. Balon dropped to his knees, tried to crawl, finally got up and hobbled off. He came back later, apparently suffering no pain…Larry Hillman looked nervous on defence while Baun was having his nose stitched…Until his last minute error, Stanley was the Leafs’ most able performer. His defensive play was supportive and he engineered some fine attacks, including the one that set up Pulford’s opening goal…A few seconds prior to Richard’s winner, the Leafs had a two-on-one break, but Bathgate drove a shot off Hodge’s chest.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 1, 1964

1st Period

MTL PEN – 00:42 – Balon, boarding
TOR GOAL – 03:40 – Pulford (Stanley)
MTL GOAL – 04:21 – Provost (Richard, Laperrière)
TOR PEN – 06:18 – Bathgate, high sticking
TOR PEN – 09:14 – Baun, holding
MTL PEN – 11:27 – Richard, tripping
TOR PEN – 19:20 – Pulford, charging

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 03:23 – Backstrom, high sticking
TOR PEN – 03:23 – Brewer, holding
TOR PEN – 06:09 – Baun, holding
MTL PEN – 12:57 – Harper, roughing
TOR PEN – 12:57 – Shack, roughing
TOR GOAL – 16:55 – Pulford (Shack, Stewart)
TOR PEN – 17:29 – Baun, holding

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 00:43 – Balon, slashing + misconduct
MTL PEN – 07:35 – Talbot, holding
MTL GOAL – 17:25 – Tremblay (Hicke, Backstrom)
MTL GOAL – 19:35 – Richard

MTL – Hodge (W, 28-30)
TOR – Bower (L, 26-29)

MTL – 8+10+11 = 29
TOR – 13+9+8 = 30

MTLGoaltenders: Charlie Hodge. Defence: Terry Harper, Jacques Laperrière, Jim Roberts, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay, Bryan Watson. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Dave Balon, Jean Béliveau (C), Red Berenson, John Ferguson, Bernie Geoffrion, Bill Hicke, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau.
TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Andy Bathgate, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Don McKenney, Bob Pulford, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.