Playoff Game 63 – Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1

Playoff Game 63
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 1
Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6
Tuesday, May 2, 1967
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, ON

No team in hockey has done more to improve the status of old players than the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Also, no team in hockey has benefited more from this commendable experiment.

It was the resilient old-timers, with the stalwart support of the younger players, who won the Stanley Cup for the Leafs here last night with a 3-1 decision over the Montréal Canadiens.

Goalkeeper Terry Sawchuk, 37, and right winger George Armstrong, 37, who played dominant roles in the win, probably played their final games in the National Hockey League. Each has expressed a desire to retire.

Sawchuk was unbelievably efficient in blocking 40 Montréal shots to record his second successive win in the series.

Armstrong scored the insurance goal into an empty net with 47 seconds left in the game after the Canadiens had removed goalie Gump Worsley for a final assault.

But it was the experience and unflappable behaviour of the Leafs’ oldsters that sabotaged the Canadiens’ last gamble, as they had done throughout the game.

Canadiens coach Toe Blake pulled Worsley with 55 seconds left for a faceoff in the Leafs zone.

Allan Stanley, a sprightly 41-year-old, tottered into the circle for the Leafs to oppose the Canadiens’ Jean Béliveau for the pressure faceoff.

Stanley won the draw and promptly gave the puck to 39-year-old Red Kelly for safe handling. Kelly threw the puck ahead to Bob Pulford, a mere youth of 31 and he dealt it up ahead to Armstrong.

With Ralph Backstrom of the Canadiens trying to get back to guard the vacated net, Armstrong, a few strides past centre ice, drifted the puck into the Montréal goal.

The Leafs, to the consternation of a crowd of 15,977, had several narrow escapes before that, but the Canadiens, who were far better than the score suggests, were denied the tying goal through the astonishing play of Sawchuk.

If everyone is getting a trifle weary reading about the potent playoff performance of the Leafs’ goalies, Sawchuk and Johnny Bower, consult the Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks for further testimonials.

The Leafs eliminated the Black Hawks, league champions, in the semi-final in six games. Playing in their own divot marks in the final, they knocked out the Canadiens in the same number of games.

In both series, the Leafs prospered on goaltending that varied all the way from superlative to great.

There were doubts earlier in the season that either team would be around for the playoffs.

The Canadiens, who had won the Stanley Cup the two previous years, went slumming for most of the schedule, even occupying last place briefly. But they went undefeated through the final 11 games of the schedule to claim second place and then ousted the Rangers in four games in the semi-final.

The Leafs had problems of their own. They once went 10 games without a win, a period of despondency that sent their coach George Imlach to the hospital for two weeks. They recovered to win 10 consecutive games and finished the season in third place. Imlach also recovered.

Sawchuk demoralized the Hawks with his ability to handle their hardest shots and he probably anticipated a respite in the final.

But he replaced Bower in the fourth game of the final, after Bower was injured in a pregame warmup. The Canadiens were so elated they won that game 6-2. Sawchuk played an erratic game although his teammates absolved him of all blame.

He proved it was only a temporary abberation anyway by stopping the Canadiens in Montréal last Saturday and again last night.

The Leafs played with an excessive caution through the first two periods, probably concentrating on avoiding mistakes, although it didn’t develop that way. They have played better games in this series, but Sawchuk was always vigilant to take the heat off when the Canadiens, with a no-next-game possibility staring at them, turned on the pressure.

He stopped 17 shots in the first period and 14 more in the second before Dick Duff beat him with the Canadiens’ only goal early in the third. That goal gave the Canadiens a lift. It also reawakened the Leafs to their checking responsibilities.

They gave Sawchuk his best protection through the final 15 minutes.

Ron Ellis and Jim Pappin scored the first two Toronto goals, in the second period. It was Pappin’s seventh, tops in the playoffs.

Béliveau, more aggressive than is customary for him, forced Sawchuk to make two great stops in the first period. Yvan Cournoyer, Ralph Backstrom and Léon Rochefort also saw seemingly certain goals cancelled by swift Sawchuk moves.

In the second period, Béliveau, Bobby Rousseau and John Ferguson, on two occasions, saw their shots blocked as Sawchuk revolved on his bent axis to make two, and sometimes three saves, in succession.

While Sawchuk was providing the dramatics, the Leafs kept worrying and harassing the Canadiens with their hit-and-run checking. Dave Keon, Armstrong, Red Kelly, Pulford and Brian Conacher shadowed the Canadiens with a disciplined thoroughness.

The Leafs’ defence of Stanley, Tim Horton, Marcel Pronovost and Larry Hillman had occasional trouble tracking down the elusive Canadiens. However, they never relaxed and usually got a piece of the player, the puck or both. If one missed, his partner successfully backed him up.

Kelly, missing much of his speed, but none of his moxie, started the play for the Leafs’ first goal. A Montréal shot hit Stanley’s pads and bounced over the Leafs blueline. Kelly pounced on the puck and skated slowly down the right side.

Near the Montréal blueline he fired a shot. Worsley kicked the puck out. Ellis wormed around defenceman Terry Harper and lifted in the rebound under the crossbar.

Pete Stemkowski and Pappin combined to score the Leafs’ second goal, giving the impression they were only trying to run out time in the second period. Pappin was credited with the score with 36 seconds left.

Pappin, who had taken Stemkowski’s pass, fired a shot from the Canadiens’ left point. Stemkowski and Canadiens defenceman Harper were ge-stick-ulating in front of Worsley when Pappin’s shot arrived. It seemed as if the puck hit Stemkowski’s skate and skidded past Worsley. The goal was originally given to Stemkowski and later changed to Pappin when the officials were told the puck had glanced in off Harper.

Duff, who scored the winning goal that gave the Leafs the Stanley Cup in 1962, discovered that Sawchuk was not invincible early in the third period. He skated down left wing, weaved through and around the defence of Stanley and Horton, faked Sawchuk and tucked the puck inside the left post.

The Canadiens renewed their assault, but the Leafs threw up their most effective checking barricade of the game. Sawchuk made another flamboyant save on J.C. Tremblay on a Canadiens power play with Pappin in the penalty box.

Worsley looked expectantly at the bench with about two minutes left in the game. Blake ignored him until there were 55 seconds to go. Then the Leafs’ old men took over.

Jacques Laperrière, who stopped more difficult shots than Worsley through the first period, played a vigorous game for the Canadiens. So did J.C. Tremblay, Béliveau, Backstrom, Duff, Henri Richard, Ted Harris and Harper.

Worsley, who has been unemployed since March 12 apart from one period in Montréal last Saturday, was exceptionally alert.

It was to be expected, of course. He is almost 38, which automatically qualified him for a prominent role in this year’s final.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, May 3, 1967; image property of Canada.com


BOXSCORE
1st Period
TOR PEN – 02:30 – Conacher, interference
MTL PEN – 05:16 – Backstrom, holding
MTL PEN – 10:21 – Béliveau, cross checking
TOR PEN – 13:25 – Conacher, interference
MTL PEN – 18:50 – Ferguson, elbowing

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 03:05 – Harper, holding
TOR GOAL – 06:25 – Ellis (Kelly, Stanley)
TOR PEN – 07:14 – Stemkowski, cross checking
TOR PEN – 13:23 – Stanley, hooking
MTL PEN – 14:44 – Rousseau, tripping
TOR GOAL – 19:24 – Pappin (Stemkowski, Pulford)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 05:28 – Duff (Harris)
TOR PEN – 11:46 – Pappin, slashing
TOR EN GOAL – 19:13 – Armstrong (Pulford, Kelly)

GOALTENDERS
TOR – Sawchuk (W, 40-41)
MTL – Worsley (L, 33-35)

SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 11+16+9 = 36
MTL – 17+14+10 = 41

ROSTERS
TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk. Defence: Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Marcel Pronovost, Allan Stanley. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Brian Conacher, Ron Ellis, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Jim Pappin, Bob Pulford, Pete Stemkowski, Mike Walton.
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.

ATTENDANCE
15,977