Playoff Game 61 – Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 2

Playoff Game 61
Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 2
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4
Thursday, April 27, 1967
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Terry Sawchuk didn’t get the message to play until a few minutes before game time last night.

The rest of the Maple Leafs never got the message.

The Montréal Canadiens, who had suspected that nothing but bazookas could penetrate the Toronto net, discovered early in the game that small arms would suffice.

Inventive as always, the Canadiens made an instant adjustment and went on to record their second 6-2 win in this Stanley Cup best-of-seven final.

The series is tied at 2-2 with the fifth game in the Montréal Forum tomorrow afternoon.

The only consolation the aggrieved Leafs could derive from this desolate performance was that they have looked as inept on other Thursday nights. Their four losses in this year’s playoffs have all occurred on Thursday.

The Leafs’ superstitious coach George Imlach will probably refuse to play the seventh game, if it is needed, on that day.

Canadiens’ rookie goalkeeper Rogatien Vachon made a few pressure saves early in the game when the Leafs took the initiative. That was sufficient to inspire the Canadiens.

Led by giant-striding Jean Béliveau, they took the offensive away from the Leafs and never gave it back. In other games, the Leafs relied almost exclusively on their goalie to demoralize the opposition’s scoring ambitions.

This time they didn’t get the superlative netminding they had come to expect as commonplace and the traumatic experience left them befuddled. The Leafs had nobody else on the team with a license to perform miracles.

Sawchuk, in happier moments, had cautioned well-wishers that on some nights you can’t keep the puck out with a snowplow. Last night, everyone in the crowd of 15,977 knew what he meant.

The Canadiens’ first three goals were of the variety that Sawchuk and his associate Johnny Bower have been devouring as routine throughout the playoffs.

Sawchuk was to have spent last night on the bench, watching Bower resume his histrionics from Tuesday’s overtime game. But Bower pulled a muscle in his left thigh in the pregame warmup and Sawchuk replaced him.

Béliveau and Ralph Backstrom each scored two goals for the Canadiens with Henri Richard and Jim Roberts getting the others. Richard skated with his usual floating power, giving no hint that he had suffered any ill effects from being knocked out by Allan Stanley’s bodycheck in Tuesday’s game.

Mike Walton and Tim Horton scored for the Leafs, each in the second period. Normally each goal might have reawakened the Leafs to a more determined offence, but in this particular game, the Canadiens threw them back with an infuriating poise.

For instance, Walton’s goal cut the Canadiens’ lead to 2-1 early in the second period and the crowd stirred with the scent of a Leafs reformation. But 17 seconds later Richard restored the Canadiens’ two-goal lead.

Horton’s goal later in the period shaved the Canadiens’ lead to one again. The Canadiens went two-up little more than a minute later and the Leafs never recovered.

The Canadiens’ early goals could not be classified as blatant flukes. They were the result of determined, alert play, but the dramatics of Sawchuk and Bower in other games made it seem ridiculous they would be victimized by ordinary means.

Backstrom scored the first goal, when he lurked behind the Leafs defence of Horton and Allan Stanley with play supposedly going the other way, Claude Larose poked the puck through to him. Backstrom whirled and fired a blind backhand shot, which beat Sawchuk.

Béliveau’s stately skating and polished playmaking usually creates poetic goals, but he made it 2-0 by banking in a shot off Sawchuk’s left leg. It was the only play he could make. He was standing almost on the goal line to Sawchuk’s left and there was a tangle of players in front of the net.

In the second period, Richard’s fluid drive carried him over the Leafs blueline on the left side. Horton stumbled racing after him, recovered, but it was too late. Richard drifted in a floating backhander. Sawchuk partially gloved the shot.

Late in the second period, Béliveau and Yvan Cournoyer combined with a rink-length rush, with Béliveau beating Sawchuk with a low shot from about 30 feet out.

Backstrom made it 5-2 with a backhand shot, after faking a pass to Gilles Tremblay. The only goal of the third period was scored by Roberts, playing his first game of the series. He whistled a high shot from far out on right wing. Sawchuk gave no indication he saw the shot.

Vachon, playing with remarkable coolness, had his only embarrassment of the game on Walton’s goal. The puck hit Terry Harper’s skate and skidded across the goal line slowly with Vachon trying frantically to stretch his left leg to deflect it. Horton’s goal was a screened slap shot from near the left point.

Vachon, exceptionally fast with his hands throughout the game, was at his best when he was needed the most by the Canadiens – early in the game.

The Leafs opened with a vigorous offence. The puck didn’t get outside the Montréal blueline for 45 seconds. Vachon made a fine stop on Pete Stemkowski’s shot. He followed with two more on Walton before the Canadiens started bending play in the other direction.

Imlach revised his lineup in the second period. It didn’t make any difference. Bobby Baun replaced Stanley on defence with Horton. The Horton-Stanley pair were on for the Canadiens’ first three goals.

Ed Shack, who has almost had to be leashed to the bench to keep him off the ice in this series, was turned loose in the second period, replacing George Armstrong on a line with Dave Keon and Frank Mahovlich.

The crowd, as expected, approved the move. Shack received a thunderous cheer for his first official duty, freezing the puck on the boards.

He was effective, in his own exuberant fashion. Once he compelled Vachon to make a difficult stop after whirling down right wing at full throttle.

Shack got through the second period without a penalty. He picked up three in the third period, one for slashing, one for charging and one for grappling with the Canadiens’ John Ferguson.

Centremen Béliveau, Richard and Backstrom were the most noticeable of the Canadiens, but their defence of J.C. Tremblay, Jacques Laperrière, Ted Harris and Terry Harper excelled in handling traffic and trapping rebounds. Tremblay’s ability to anticipate the Leafs’ moves and his polished puck-control, missing in Tuesday’s game, were always apparent.

Walton, who got a few shifts on a regular line in addition to being on the power play, was one of the more ambitious Leafs, although Vachon had his number most of the time.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, April 28, 1967

1st Period
MTL PEN – 00:18 – Laperrière, interference
TOR PEN – 06:19 – Armstrong, interference
MTL GOAL – 12:25 – Backstrom (Larose)
TOR PEN – 12:36 – Pronovost, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 13:08 – Béliveau (Rousseau, Cournoyer)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:46 – Béliveau, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 02:09 – Walton (Pulford, Stemkowski)
MTL GOAL – 02:26 – Richard
TOR PEN – 04:35 – Armstrong, hooking
TOR GOAL – 12:16 – Horton
MTL GOAL – 13:41 – Béliveau (Ferguson, Cournoyer)
MTL GOAL – 15:58 – Backstrom (J. Tremblay)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 02:32 – Harris, tripping
TOR PEN – 08:21 – Shack, charging
MTL GOAL – 15:17 – Roberts (Richard)
MTL PEN – 16:34 – Larose, slashing
TOR PEN – 16:34 – Baun, hooking
MTL PEN – 17:09 – Harris, slashing
TOR PEN – 17:09 – Shack, slashing
MTL PEN – 19:29 – Ferguson, roughing
TOR PEN – 19:29 – Shack, roughing

MTL – Vachon (W, 35-37)
TOR – Sawchuk (L, 34-40)

MTL – 19+10+11 = 40
TOR – 11+16+10 = 37

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