Playoff Game 54 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3

Playoff Game 54
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 1
Thursday, April 7, 1966
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Before last night’s hockey game at The Forum, George Imlach came out of dressing room number 7, grinned and pointed to a photographer’s badge he was wearing on his lapel.

In the centre of the badge was printed a large 11.

“See that, 7 and 11,” yelled Imlach. “They’ll never beat us.”

Crapshooters will understand that 7 and 11 are winning numbers and Imlach therefore went into last night’s Stanley Cup semifinal playoff opener against the Montréal Canadiens expecting to be lucky.

But when it was his turn to throw the dice, Imlach came up with snake eyes, and a 4-3 loss, which gives the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series which continues here Saturday night.

Imlach certainly wasn’t lucky. At the 19:50 mark of the third period, two minutes after Jean Béliveau had scored the Canadiens’ fourth goal, Dave Keon combined with Red Kelly to score with what appeared to be the equalizer but the play was offside.

Keon banged his stick angrily against the door at the Leaf bench as he left the ice – not because he disagreed with the call, but because things had to turn out that way.

Earlier in the day, Imlach learned Johnny Bower, expected to be the key in this series, would be unable to play goal because of an attack of influenza.

Then he sent veteran defenceman Allan Stanley out for his first shift in three weeks in the second period, and Stanley played only a few agonizing minutes before colliding with teammate Wally Boyer and re-injuring his right knee.

It looks as if Stanley is out for good and he was another key to the Leafs’ playoff hopes.

Despite this, and the fact that Red Kelly was playing with the flu, Brit Selby with a cracked bone in his little toe, and Frank Mahovlich with slight fluid on one knee, the Leafs held a 2-1 lead after one period.

Eddie Shack, who played a surprisingly alert game, scored the first Leaf goal on a pass from Bob Pulford. The play was started by the ailing Kelly.

Then Montréal bounced back with a power play goal by J.C. Tremblay, one of their better performers. Pulford, killing a penalty to George Armstrong, tried to slip the puck through Tremblay’s leg in the Montréal zone but Tremblay stole it and stormed down the ice. At the Leaf blueline, he cut sideways and fired a long one through a maze of players which Terry Sawchuk did not appear to see.

Mahovlich slammed in Armstrong’s shot during a Toronto power play later in the period to make it 2-1, then John Ferguson tied it again in the second.

Montréal stormed ahead 3-2 on Bobby Rousseau’s goal after Sawchuk had made excellent saves on Yvan Cournoyer and J.C. Tremblay.

It look at that point, going into the third period, as if the Leafs had shot their bolt and the Canadiens would run away on them.

However, Imlach, who hadn’t been getting full mileage from his kid line, shuffled things around. He moved Wally Boyer from centre to Brit Selby’s left wing spot, and put Pulford between Boyer and Ron Ellis. Seconds later, Boyer shoveled a pass to Pulford and Pully fired a hard one from the blueline that Gump Worsley is still waiting to see.

That put new life in the game and until Béliveau’s goal, it appeared it would go into overtime.

George Armstrong was the unfortunate goat and it was too bad because he had been one of the best Leafs up to that point.

Army didn’t look as he was driving out of the Leaf zone and his pass wound up on the stick of Claude Provost. Provost wound up, Larry Hillman dived to deflect his shot and it went to Béliveau, unprotected to the left of the Leaf net.

After that, nothing really mattered, except that the Leafs obviously wished their last-second heroics had been allowed.

There was no doubt on the play, however. Linesman John D’Amico had his hand up signifying an offside before the play really got under way. Because of the roaring fans, the players didn’t hear the whistle.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 8, 1966

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 02:12 – Shack (Pulford, Kelly)
MTL PEN – 04:12 – Harris, high sticking
TOR PEN – 08:52 – Ellis, cross checking
TOR PEN – 11:00 – Armstrong, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 12:08 – J. Tremblay
MTL PEN – 13:20 – Ferguson, interference
MTL PEN – 16:09 – Béliveau, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 18:08 – Mahovlich (Armstrong, Hillman)

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 03:05 – Ferguson (Backstrom, Larose)
TOR PEN – 06:33 – Hillman, high sticking
MTL PP GOAL – 08:13 – Rousseau (J. Tremblay, Cournoyer)
MTL PEN – 09:42 – Ferguson, elbowing
TOR PEN – 11:42 – Armstrong, roughing
MTL PEN – 11:42 – Harris, spearing
TOR PEN – 14:30 – Mahovlich, hooking

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 00:53 – Pronovost, tripping
TOR GOAL – 10:35 – Pulford (Boyer)
MTL GOAL – 17:48 – Béliveau (Provost)

MTL – Worsley (W, 25-28)
TOR – Sawchuk (L, 28-32)

MTLGoaltenders: Charlie Hodge, Gump Worsley. Defence: Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Jim Roberts, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Dave Balon, Jean Béliveau (C), Yvan Cournoyer, Dick Duff, John Ferguson, Claude Larose, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.
TORGoaltenders: Bruce Gamble, Terry Sawchuk. Defence: Bobby Baun, Kent Douglas, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Marcel Pronovost, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Wally Boyer, Ron Ellis, Dave Keon, Orland Kurtenbach, Frank Mahovlich, Bob Pulford, Brit Selby, Eddie Shack, Pete Stemkowski.