Playoff Game 56 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2

Playoff Game 56
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 3
Tuesday, April 12, 1966
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Maple Leafs today are faced with the humiliating possibility that they will be eliminated from this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs without winning a game.

For one period last night at the Gardens, the Leafs looked like the greatest team in hockey as they breezed to a 2-0 lead over the Montréal Canadiens.

For the next two periods the Leafs were somewhat less than great as the Habs fought back to take a 5-2 win.

The victory placed the Canadiens in the pleasant position of having a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven semi-final with a chance to advance undefeated with another win here tomorrow night.

The Leafs? Well, the old Leafs can’t find the formula and the odds against them coming back with four wins in succession are astronomical. Pierre Sévigny has a better chance to become our next Prime Minister.

Only one National Hockey League team has ever accomplished a comeback of that nature, a Leaf team oddly enough, but that was 24 years ago.

This was a game in which the Leafs and their loyal supporters stormed out for the first 20 minutes, yelling, skating, checking and shooting.

In the last period, those loyal fans – 14,996 of them – actually booed the Leafs and cheered when a trickling Toronto shot found its way to the Montréal net.

Edward Shack had sent them into hysterics by scoring a goal when the game was only a minute and 26 seconds old. Shack stepped on the ice, took a pass from Dave Keon, slipped through defencemen J.C. Tremblay and Ted Harris and shot a hesitant, ice-hugging backhander under Gump Worsley.

The Leafs missed chance after chance, open net after open net, then Tim Horton found the range with a hard one from the point to make it 2-0.

Joy in Leafsville.

In the second period, the Leafs stormed out again, missing open nets but in complete control of play for the first three minutes.

George Imlach, the leader, sent out his kid line – Brit Selby, Ron Ellis and Wally Boyer – for the first time in the game, having used only two lines for the first 20 minutes.

That was when the Habs began to catch up. The pace changed and Toronto never again looked dangerous.

You could borrow a line from Cassius Clay to describe the Habs’ most dangerous threesome of Ralph Backstrom, Bobby Rousseau and Dick Duff. They float like butterflies and sting like bees.

Backstrom struck first, when Horton failed to clear the puck from in front of the Leaf net, and Rousseau stung next.

Backstrom’s goal was at 8:16 and Rousseau scored at the 11-minute mark on a screened shot from the point.

Shack, with his third penalty in the game, watched it from the penalty box. All three penalties were taken against John Ferguson.

These two guys – Shack and Ferguson – seem to have only one aim in life: to destroy each other.

They went at it all night and this time Eddie was the goat, taking three penalties to Ferguson’s two. Fergy also had a goal – the one that put the Canadiens up 4-2, killing the Leafs’ already sagging spirit.

Only 26 seconds after Rousseau’s goal, Terry Harper scored what turned out to be the winner, again a screened shot from the blueline. The puck never left the ice.

Ferguson scored when the third period was only 18 seconds old and Jean Béliveau wrapped it up when he scored on an empty net after Imlach had pulled Johnny Bower with a minute and seven seconds left in the game.

The only noticeable Leaf movement in the third period was made by Kent Douglas. Douglas decided to try to goad little Rousseau into a fight when Kent found himself alone with him. Rousseau skated away and before the hot-tempered Mr. Douglas calmed down, he gave linesman Neil Armstrong a shove for good measure.

Mr. Douglas recently sat out a two-game suspension for an altercation with linesman John D’Amico, so there is a chance he may not be available to play tomorrow night. However, he received only a 10-minute misconduct this time and may sneak by without further discipline.

What’s wrong with the Leafs? Well, to start with, they aren’t so good as the Canadiens.

Their third line, with the exception of Wally Boyer, who played well, has been completely ineffective and this was a team that was supposed to have four attacking units.

They are missing too many chances around the net.

And Frank Mahovlich, their big gun over the last half of the schedule, is playing as if that injured knee is still giving him trouble.

What it all adds up to is: some of us who picked them to win in seven games are trying to think of a way out.

If they win tomorrow, don’t get excited.

Les Canadiens sont trop forts (Too strong, man. Much too strong.)

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 13, 1966

1st Period
MTL PEN – 00:10 – team, too many men on the ice
TOR PP GOAL – 01:26 – Shack (Keon, Douglas)
TOR PEN – 02:37 – Horton, tripping
TOR PEN – 06:49 – Baun, elbowing
MTL PEN – 10:13 – Ferguson, high sticking
TOR PEN – 10:13 – Shack, high sticking
MTL PEN – 10:41 – Harris, holding
TOR PEN – 14:01 – Shack, high sticking
TOR GOAL – 17:32 – Horton (Kelly, Shack)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 03:03 – Harper, tripping
MTL PEN – 05:33 – Ferguson, charging
MTL GOAL – 08:16 – Backstrom (Duff)
TOR PEN – 09:31 – Shack, high sticking
MTL PP GOAL – 11:00 – Rousseau (G. Tremblay, Béliveau)
MTL GOAL – 11:26 – Harper (Talbot, Balon)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 00:16 – Ferguson (Béliveau)
TOR PEN – 06:20 – Douglas, game misconduct
MTL EN GOAL – 19:50 – Béliveau (Provost, G. Tremblay)

MTL – Worsley (W, 28-30)
TOR – Bower (L, 33-37)

MTL – 11+19+8 = 38
TOR – 10+12+8 = 30

MTLGoaltenders: Charlie Hodge, Gump Worsley. Defence: Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Noel Price, 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, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.
TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk. Defence: Bobby Baun, Kent Douglas, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Marcel Pronovost. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Wally Boyer, Ron Ellis, Dave Keon, Orland Kurtenbach, Frank Mahovlich, Bob Pulford, Brit Selby, Eddie Shack, Pete Stemkowski.