Game 521 – Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0

Game 521
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
Wednesday, March 27, 1968
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Maple Leafs, throughout the National Hockey League schedule, have found their proper level – fifth place – through a haphazard team effort.

However, they do perform occasionally, with a crisp efficiency and resolve that make their fifth-place position seem incredible.

Last night in the Gardens was one of those times and there were many in the crowd of 15,887 who must have wondered, where did the Leafs go wrong this season?

Murray Oliver staked the Leafs to a two-goal advantage in the first period and they continued from there for a 6-0 conquest of the Montréal Canadiens.

It was one of the worst defeats of the season for the Canadiens, who have clinched first place. The comfort and confidence that goes with that position might have dulled their energies, but it was the opinion of many that the Canadiens could not play in such indifferent fashion even if they practiced at it.

Coach Toe Blake had cautioned his players before the game to take special care to guard the Canadiens’ goals-against average. He wants the Vézina Trophy for his goaltending pair of Gump Worsley and Rogatien Vachon.

It may have been accidental, but the Montréal players gave the impression they have little, if any, regard for the Vézina. Seldom has Vachon been exposed to such a bombardment. The Leafs fired 39 shots at him, plus around a score or more near misses.

Vachon and Worsley will likely still qualify for the Vézina. They have an 11-goal lead on the Philadelphia pair of Doug Favell and Bernie Parent. But Blake and his goalies will feel more at ease when defencemen Ted Harris and Terry Harper return to the lineup. They are expected back this weekend.

Without Harper and Harris, the Montréal defence was docile. The Leafs found this out early in the game and, minus the customary roadblocks and land mines, flew at Vachon with a strong skating performance they have not employed many times this season.

Bob Pulford, Ron Ellis, Mike Byers and Mike Walton scored Toronto’s other goals. It was the 30th of the season for Walton. He also assisted on two other goals and he might have had two more goals. Once he missed the net from an advantageous position and another time he beat Vachon with a slap shot but the puck hit a post and caromed away.

Old Johnny Bower, the goalie almost everyone is trying to superannuate because he is said to be at least 45, stopped 26 shots to record his third shutout of the season. His employers pay him $100 a shutout, the same amount Walton is said to receive for every goal above 20.

Bower wasn’t besieged by shots. Sometimes he went hunting for stops to relieve the monotony. However, if his reflexes have dulled and if he is yielding to tired blood, there was no evidence of it in this game.

He preserved his shutout with at least a half-dozen alert stops, two on Jean Béliveau plus others on Henri Richard, Claude Provost and Jacques Lemaire.

Canadiens rookie defenceman Carol Vadnais was on patrol in front of Vachon for four goals. On two of them he was an embarrassed victim. Pulford’s goal, in the second period, started out as a pass from Walton to Brian Conacher. The puck hit Vadnais’ skate and slid directly to Pulford in front of the Montréal goal.

Then rookie Byers scored his second goal of the season late in the second period. Dave Keon set it up with a rush down centre ice. He gave the puck to Byers inside the Montréal blueline. His first shot hit Vadnais on the shins, but he recovered the puck and drove it past Vachon.

As they say in the trade, the puck was bouncing for the Leafs. Walton’s goal, the only one of the third period, came when a pass from Pulford was rerouted to him off Lemaire.

Ellis scored a second-period goal, his 26th of the season, in the second period from a few feet in front of the Montréal goal. Pulford, behind the net, threw the puck in front.

Oliver raised his season’s production to 15 goals with two in the first period. For his first he trapped a pass from Tim Horton near the Montréal blueline, spun around Jacques Laperrière and beat Vachon with a shot from outside the crease. He scored his second on a backhander after Vachon had dropped to the ice, hoping to get in the way of a shot fired from the blueline by Leafs’ defenceman Mike Pelyk.

The Leafs defence, which has not terrorized opposition forwards all season, played efficiently in this game. Duane Rupp was uncommonly effective in stopping rushes and getting passes away to his forwards. Pelyk made the Canadiens approach cautiously and old Sam Stanley felled Serge Savard with a body slam late in the third period.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 28, 1968

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 06:54 – Oliver (Horton)
TOR PEN – 13:04 – Pulford, slashing
TOR GOAL – 19:32 – Oliver (Pelyk, Byers)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 08:19 – Pulford (Walton, Horton)
MTL PEN – 08:51 – Ferguson, tripping
TOR GOAL – 14:26 – Ellis (Pulford, Walton)
TOR GOAL – 16:28 – Byers (Keon, Oliver)
TOR PEN – 17:03 – Oliver, boarding
TOR PEN – 19:05 – Pelyk, holding

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 08:12 – Conacher, tripping
MTL PEN – 09:29 – J. Tremblay, hooking + misconduct
TOR GOAL – 13:41 – Walton (Conacher, Pulford)

TOR – Bower (W + SO, 26-26)
MTL – Vachon (L, 33-39)

TOR – 19+12+8 = 39
MTL – 10+6+10 = 26

TORGoaltenders: Johnny Bower, Bruce Gamble. Defence: Larry Hillman, Tim Horton, Mike Pelyk, Duane Rupp, Allan Stanley. Forwards: Mike Byers, Brian Conacher, Ron Ellis, Paul Henderson, Dave Keon, Murray Oliver, Jim Pappin, Bob Pulford, Norm Ullman, Mike Walton.
MTLGoaltenders: Rogatien Vachon, Gump Worsley. Defence: Jacques Laperrière, Serge Savard, J.C. Tremblay, Carol Vadnais. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau (C), Yvan Cournoyer, Dick Duff, John Ferguson, Danny Grant, Jacques Lemaire, Claude Provost, Mickey Redmond, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.

TOR – 31-31-10 (.500)
MTL – 42-20-10 (.653)