Game 524 – Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 4

Game 524
Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 4
Wednesday, December 11, 1968
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

John Ferguson has conceded from time to time that he accomplishes more as a hockey player with his fists than he does with his shooting stick.

In Maple Leaf Gardens last night he had nobody to fight with, a situation that normally frustrates him.

To relieve his personal tedium he scored a goal late in the third period that enabled the Montréal Canadiens to tie the Maple Leafs 4-4.

It was his seventh goal of the season and Ferguson betrayed a rare streak of sentiment when he requested the referee to pilfer the puck for him.

Many in the crowd of 16,485 tried to guess what historic milestone had been achieved. Normally, Ferguson does not develop an attachment for a puck unless he can bounce it off someone’s skull.

He disclosed somewhat sheepishly after the game that it was his 100th career goal. That includes playoffs in six National Hockey League seasons.

Ferguson, classified by many as the NHL’s bare-knuckle champion, needed a goal to cleanse his game record. He incurred a foolish penalty earlier in the period, a senseless high-sticking infraction on Paul Henderson.

The Leafs were leading 4-3 at the time and a power play, which was futile earlier, suddenly started to click. Fortunately for the Canadiens, fill-in goalie Tony Esposito chose those two minutes to make his best stops of the game.

There had been some doubts about Esposito’s qualifications to replace ailing Gump Worsley and Rogatien Vachon. It was said he was weak on long shots and that he had an awkward style that could be exploited.

The Leafs couldn’t do it on their power play. Esposito made remarkable stops on Larry Mickey twice, one on Mike Walton and an outstanding save with his left skate on a shot fired by Murray Oliver.

Coaches theorize that to beat the Canadiens you need to knock them around and check them closely. Whatever you do, the admonition is, don’t try to skate with them.

However, the Leafs adopted the Canadiens speed style last night and found it to their liking. They led 4-3 after two periods and might have produced a win, but caution caught up with them in the third period. They went back to a semi-defensive style and the Canadiens, who outshot the Leafs 17-9 in the final 20 minutes, almost pulled out a win.

However, the fact that the Leafs, even for a period or two, were able to match the Canadiens in speed and maneuverability, was a surprising development. In recent seasons the Leafs, in their games with the Montréalers, have placed the emphasis on brawn. They had to because they didn’t have much else going for them.

Right winger Floyd Smith was stricken by the flu yesterday and was unable to play for the Leafs. Defenceman Tim Horton had the same ailment, but he played. He was the most vigorous outpatient on the ice.

The game was marked by sudden flurries of energetic skating and rushing and as sudden lapses into aimless fits of confused pursuit of a disobedient puck. There was a casual indifference to defensive refinements which made for an exciting game for goalies Esposito and Bruce Gamble of the Leafs.

George Armstrong, Dave Keon, Ron Ellis and Henderson scored for the Leafs. Mickey Redmond, Dick Duff and Jacques Lemaire scored for the Canadiens.

Armstrong’s goal, his first since abandoning his retirement last week, was greeted by a prolonged cheer. It occurred on Armstrong’s first shift. He steered Pat Quinn’s point shot behind Esposito.

Redmond tied the score halfway through the period, fooling Gamble with a quick, high old-fashioned wrist shot. Pierre Pilote screened Gamble on the shot.

Five goals, three by the Leafs, were scored in the second period. Duff moved the Canadiens ahead when he fooled Armstrong with a bewildering shift and skated in close to beat Gamble. Keon tied the score in 18 seconds with a backhand shot from 10 feet in front of Esposito.

Lemaire restored Montréal’s lead on a power play. He took a long pass from J.C. Tremblay behind the Toronto defence and skated in to score. There was some agitation on the Leafs bench that Lemaire was offside.

Ellis combined with Keon to score the game’s niftiest goal. Ellis, in a shower of ice dust, arrived in front of the Montréal goal in time to stab in Keon’s pass from the left corner.

Henderson’s goal, shortly before the period ended, gave the Leafs the lead. The Canadiens thought they were playing it safe by sending out Jean Béliveau’s line for a vital faceoff, but Norm Ullman took the puck from J.C. Tremblay relayed it to Mickey and he passed to Henderson.

Ferguson scored the only goal of the third period. He trapped a shot from Redmond and, with Pilote between him and the Leafs’ goal, he swept the puck past Gamble.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 12, 1968

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 03:43 – Armstrong (Pulford, Quinn)
MTL GOAL – 09:29 – Redmond (Lemaire, J. Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 15:26 – Duff, cross checking
TOR PEN – 18:57 – Dorey, interference

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 03:19 – Duff (Rousseau, Laperrière)
TOR GOAL – 03:37 – Keon (Oliver)
TOR PEN – 07:43 – Dorey, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 09:34 – Lemaire (J. Tremblay)
TOR GOAL – 12:24 – Ellis (Keon, Oliver)
TOR GOAL – 19:27 – Henderson (Mickey, Ullman)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 08:44 – Ferguson, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 14:15 – Ferguson (Redmond, Backstrom)

TOR – Gamble (T, 37-41)
MTL – Esposito (T, 24-28)

TOR – 8+11+9 = 28
MTL – 10+14+17 = 41

TOR Goaltenders: Bruce Gamble. Defence: Jim Dorey, Tim Horton, Mike Pelyk, Pierre Pilote, Pat Quinn. Forwards: George Armstrong (C), Ron Ellis, Paul Henderson, Dave Keon, Gerry Meehan, Larry Mickey, Murray Oliver, Bob Pulford, Bill Sutherland, Norm Ullman, Mike Walton.
MTLGoaltenders: Tony Esposito. Defence: Ted Harris, Jacques Laperrière, Serge Savard, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau (C), Yvan Cournoyer, Dick Duff, John Ferguson, Jacques Lemaire, Claude Provost, Mickey Redmond, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau, Gilles Tremblay.

TOR – 12-7-6 (.600)
MTL – 15-6-5 (.673)