Game 476 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3

Game 476
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3
Wednesday, December 30, 1964
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Although the Toronto Maple Leafs have reached the point of no return with incumbent personnel in their bid to halt a disastrous slump, manager-coach Punch Imlach will take no immediate steps to make major personnel changes.

Imlach made this clear last night after the Leafs lost 4-3 to the Montréal Canadiens at Maple Leaf Gardens, blowing a two goal lead for the third time in six games. He said any changes would wait at least until after next Wednesday’s game in Chicago.

The Leafs, who reshuffled their roster prior to this game, started impressively before collapsing again. They have won only four of their last 15 National Hockey League games and are in fourth place, three points behind the Detroit Red Wings. The Canadiens’ victory gave them sole possession of first place in the NHL.

The Wings play their game in hand on the Leafs against the Chicago Black Hawks tonight.

Despite the obvious need for a transfusion of new blood, the Leafs would have little opportunity to inject it in the next week. They play in Boston tomorrow night, here against Detroit Saturday and in New York Sunday before moving to Chicago. Altogether they play nine games in the next 15 days.

The Canadiens, who played without centre Jean Béliveau and left winger Gilles Tremblay, had no more than a half dozen really good scoring chances in last night’s game. But they caught Terry Sawchuk on a less-than-sensational occasion and took advantage of one of the Leafs’ new defence pairings, Allan Stanley and Bobby Baun, for three goals.

The Leafs’ other partnership, Carl Brewer and Tim Horton, contributed a strong game, with Horton at his best in some time. He also made his debut as a penalty-killing forward, and did a good job, teamed with Bob Pulford.

As usual, Charlie Hodge produced excellent, sometimes exceptional, goaltending for the Canadiens. He rarely does otherwise against the Leafs. He made more big saves than his mates had scoring opportunities and completely nullified a 30-22 Leaf edge in shots on goal.

In the final period, the Leafs outshot the Habs 10-5, but the Canadiens had the game won with two goals before Ron Ellis completed the scoring 16 seconds from the finish. After Jean-Guy Talbot fired Montréal’s fourth goal, and the ninth of the season against a Toronto power play, the Canadiens erected such a tight checking screen that the Leafs had trouble controlling the puck.

Red Kelly and Dave Keon had shot the Leafs into a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Claude Larose and Bobby Rousseau tied it in the second. John Ferguson gave the Habs the lead and Talbot clinched the victory, which gave Montréal a two-point margin in first place over the Chicago Black Hawks.

The Leafs’ about-face in the second period caused speculation that they cannot play strongly in consecutive periods, let alone consecutive games.

The Leafs’ chances of taking a lead too great for the Canadiens to overcome suffered a severe setback when Ellis was detected skating through the goal crease as Frank Mahovlich tipped in his pass. That was in the game’s second minute, with Montréal defenceman Jacques Laperrière serving an interference penalty.

A minute later the Leafs had a two-man advantage for 46 seconds, but didn’t get a shot on goal. At the eight minute mark, Ellis, by far the outstanding Leaf player, hit the post and they didn’t get the lead until 12:25, when Kelly skated away from Dick Duff, passed to Ellis, then scored on the youngster’s rebound.

Horton and Brewer had successive slapshots, with Keon deflecting Brewer’s for the second goal at 17:11.

Larose canned Henri Richard’s rebound for the Canadiens’ first goal early in the middle period and Rousseau fired Duff’s rebound under Sawchuk.

The Leafs defence was trapped on a two-man break with Baun getting back but unable to prevent Larose getting the easy goal.

Failure to move against Ralph Backstrom behind the Toronto goal facilitated Ferguson’s 15-footer at 8:34 of the third period. Backstrom had plenty of time to set himself, then lay a perfect pass on his left winger’s stick.

Balon, who was in the penalty box when Gilles Tremblay broke away to score the goal that beat the Leafs the last time the Canadiens were at the Gardens, was in again when Talbot escaped, dashed by Billy Harris and nudged Kent Douglas out of the way before beating Sawchuk.

On the same power play, Jim Roberts was in alone but shot wide of the net.

NOTES: The Leafs, of course, were without Andy Bathgate…The greys were half empty and at least a third of the crowd of 14,682 had departed by the time Ellis scored his 13th goal. He leads the Leafs in that department…It is apparent that if Douglas is to play defence it needs to be on the right side. He was relatively effective there but a liability on the left. This is unfortunate for the Leafs because, based on last night’s play, it looks as though they may need to spell off Stanley during the rugged scheduling ahead…It is early to predict, but the Stanley-Baun duo may prove incompatible.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 31, 1964

1st Period

MTL PEN – 00:31 – Laperrière, hooking
MTL PEN – 01:45 – Talbot, roughing
TOR PEN – 05:00 – Mahovlich, roughing
MTL PEN – 11:38 – Richard, high sticking
TOR PEN – 11:38 – Shack, high sticking
TOR GOAL – 12:25 – Kelly (Ellis, Stanley)
TOR PEN – 12:49 – Brewer, hooking
TOR GOAL – 17:11 – Keon (Brewer, Horton)

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 02:19 – Larose (Richard)
MTL PEN – 09:39 – Larose, holding
MTL SH GOAL – 11:05 – Talbot
TOR PEN – 11:13 – Pappin, high sticking
MTL PEN – 11:13 – Talbot, high sticking
TOR PEN – 12:16 – Douglas, high sticking
MTL PEN – 12:16 – Richard, high sticking
MTL PEN – 13:12 – Laperrière, interference
MTL GOAL – 17:43 – Rousseau (Duff, McCreary)
TOR PEN – 18:08 – Brewer, tripping

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 02:45 – Horton, roughing
MTL GOAL – 08:34 – Ferguson (Backstrom, Larose)
MTL PEN – 10:30 – Balon, interference
TOR GOAL – 19:44 – Ellis (Kelly)

MTL – Hodge (W, 27-30)
TOR – Sawchuk (L, 18-22)

MTL – 9+8+5 = 22
TOR – 12+8+10 = 30

MTLGoaltenders: Charlie Hodge. Defence: Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Jacques Laperrière, Jim Roberts, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Dave Balon, Yvan Cournoyer, Dick Duff, John Ferguson, Claude Larose, Keith McCreary, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau.
TORGoaltenders: Terry Sawchuk. Defence: Bobby Baun, Carl Brewer, Kent Douglas, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Ron Ellis, Billy Harris, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Don McKenney, Jim Pappin, Bob Pulford, Eddie Shack, Ron Stewart.

MTL – 17-8-7 (.641)
TOR – 12-12-8 (.500)