Game 511 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3

Game 511
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Wednesday, March 29, 1967
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

When it comes to winning their big games this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had a habit of falling flat on their faces.

Last night in the raucous atmosphere of the Forum the Leafs faced probably their biggest game of the schedule. They stayed in character with a dismal performance, losing 5-3 to the Montréal Canadiens.

The Leafs faltered under pressure from the goal out in this contest, which had great bearing on which team would finish second in the final standing.

By losing, Toronto dropped all the way to fourth from second place as the Canadiens established themselves as the team to beat for the runner-up position. Toronto trails the third-place New York Rangers by a point with two games to play.

The Leafs can regain third with a win over the Rangers on Saturday in Toronto.

Coach George Imlach confirmed the suspicion that the Leafs often fail in their big games.

Tuesday he said, “our record isn’t too good when it comes to the big ones. This club has always done things the tough way, scrambling from behind. If we beat the Canadiens and Rangers we’re home free.”

But the Leafs failed against Montréal. It will cost them heavily. By finishing second they could have picked up $1,250 in bonus money. Fourth place is worth only $250.

They played like a $250 hockey team last night. The most amazing thing in the contest was that the score was tied 2-2 after the first period. The scoreboard was the only place the Leafs were close to the Habitants.

The Leafs decided to go with four lines when Allan Stanley was not in uniform for the game. The fourth line was composed of Eddie Shack, Larry Jeffrey and Mike Walton.

It could easily have been 4-2 or more for the Canadiens after the first period. Rookie Rogatien Vachon was having his troubles in goal and this, combined with some erratic shooting by the Canadiens, kept the score close for the first 20 minutes.

Milt Schmidt, assistant general manager of the Boston Bruins, was amazed by Toronto’s sloppy defensive play, especially in the first period.

“They gave the puck away 21 times in that period. I thought only our club played that way,” said Schmidt.

The Leafs started with Terry Sawchuk in goal, but the veteran didn’t have it. He bobbled almost every shot taken at him in the first 15 minutes of the period.

“He’s fighting for the puck, something’s the matter with him,” said former Montréal goalie Jacques Plante. “He’s not sharp at all. He’s fumbling the puck. Funny, this place was the spot he used to be terrific.”

Although Sawchuk looked bad on both first period goals and flopped to the ice too soon on a few occasions, he was under continual pressure.

He had little assistance from a confused defensive corps and most Leaf forwards didn’t bother leaning on their checks or coming back to help out in the defensive zone.

Montréal, which at times also was lax in its own zone, forced the Leafs into one error after another with persistent forechecking.

Imlach finally took Sawchuk out at 11:34 of the second period and replaced him with Johnny Bower. The score was 4-2 when Sawchuk departed.

The Leafs were able to warm Bower up, since Sawchuk was ailing when he left the game. The crowd booed loudly when referee Bill Friday permitted the Leafs to fire pucks at Bower for two minutes.

No information about Sawchuk’s illness was reported to the press box. He returned to the bench later in the period and watched for the remainder of the game.

J.C. Tremblay, who scored two goals last Wednesday in a 5-3 triumph over the Leafs, was magnificent on defence for the Canadiens. He blocked passes on the ice and in the air, broke up plays and sent waves of red uniforms rushing up the ice.

He counted the clinching goal of the game in the final period. It was a sizzler to the corner after Ralph Backstrom’s passout. He also gained assists on Montréal’s two second period goals which broke the game open.

Jean-Guy Talbot, Gilles Tremblay, Yvan Cournoyer and Léon Rochefort also scored for Montréal.

Larry Hillman, Red Kelly and Walton scored for the Leafs. Kelly, who also had an assist, was by far the Leafs’ best forward.

The Leafs power play, which has given up almost as many goals as it has scored this month, was ineffective once again. The Leafs were ahead 1-0 on Hillman’s long shot. Jacques Laperrière was penalized for charging. Out came Hillman, Kelly, Jim Pappin, Frank Mahovlich and Ron Ellis to take advantage. But it was the Canadiens who scored 40 seconds later. Claude Provost waltzed about the Leaf zone and while the Leafs were trying to figure out who would check him he darted in on Sawchuk and fired a shot.

Sawchuk blocked the shot but the puck dribbled across to the other side of the net and before he could pounce on it, Talbot scooted behind the net and poked the puck into the goal.

Seconds after the penalty expired, Talbot hit the crossbar with Sawchuk lying on the ice after saving on Provost’s shot.

Bob Rousseau dazzled the Leafs with his persistence when he lost, then recovered the puck in the Toronto zone at least three times, before passing it to Gilles Tremblay’s stick in front of the net at 19:00 of the opening period.

Kelly fooled Vachon when he hit the short side after faking a pass to Mahovlich 38 seconds after the Montréal goal.

With Baun off in the second period, Cournoyer scored his 11th goal against the Leafs this season by tipping in Jean Béliveau’s long shot to make the score 3-2. Rochefort was parked in front of Sawchuk to bat in a rebound for his goal, the winner.

Walton’s third period score was a power play goal.

At 17:29 of the third period, Imlach lifted Bower for a sixth attacker. But all this move accomplished was to slow up an already long game that took two hours and 40 minutes to complete. Nine faceoffs were called as Bower flitted back and forth between the Leaf bench and the goal.

As usual, John Ferguson was pushing and shoving all night. He picked up three penalties, which enabled him to set a club record of 171 minutes. The old record was 167 minutes by Lou Fontinato.

Pete Stemkowski, who rattled the boards by bouncing the Habs about, almost made a goat of Ferguson when he stole the puck from him in the Montréal zone and whipped a quick backhander at Vachon, who made a quick save. A goal at this point would have tied the score 4-4.

Baun, who was running at the Habs all night long and infuriating the crowd with his checking of their favourites, was involved in a third period fight with Backstrom. He landed the only blows in the scrap.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 30, 1967

1st Period
TOR PEN – 02:43 – Pronovost, tripping
TOR GOAL – 08:15 – Hillman (Mahovlich)
MTL PEN – 09:01 – Laperrière, charging
MTL SH GOAL – 09:41 – Talbot (Provost, Harris)
MTL GOAL – 19:00 – G. Tremblay (Rousseau)
TOR GOAL – 19:38 – Kelly (Ellis, Mahovlich)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:08 – Laperrière, holding
TOR PEN – 03:59 – Baun, cross checking
MTL PP GOAL – 04:34 – Cournoyer (Béliveau, J. Tremblay)
TOR PEN – 05:59 – Baun, high sticking
MTL PEN – 05:59 – Ferguson, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 07:25 – Rochefort (J. Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 09:09 – Ferguson, hooking
MTL PEN – 11:24 – Ferguson, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 13:21 – Walton (Ellis, Kelly)
TOR PEN – 14:11 – Stemkowski, boarding

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 08:33 – J. Tremblay (Ferguson, Backstrom)
TOR PEN – 10:01 – Baun, roughing
MTL PEN – 10:01 – Backstrom, roughing / high sticking double minor

MTL – Vachon (W, 29-32)
TOR – Sawchuk (L, 18-22), Bower (20-21)

MTL – 15+16+12 = 43
TOR – 10+14+8 = 32

MTLGoaltenders: Rogatien Vachon, Gump Worsley. Defence: Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Jacques Laperrière, Jean-Guy Talbot, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Dave Balon, Jean Béliveau (C), Yvan Cournoyer, John Ferguson, Claude Larose, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Léon Rochefort, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.
TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk. Defence: Bobby Baun, Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Marcel Pronovost. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Brian Conacher, Ron Ellis, Larry Jeffrey, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Jim Pappin, Bob Pulford, Eddie Shack, Pete Stemkowski, Mike Walton.

MTL – 30-25-13 (.537)
TOR – 30-27-11 (.522)