Game 525 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 2

Game 525
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 2
Thursday, December 26, 1968
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

It was difficult to tell whether the Toronto Maple Leafs ran out of stamina or players.

It may have been a combination of both here last night when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Montréal Canadiens.

The Leafs never did run out of determination. Despite a hastily revised lineup and the enervating effects of a busy holiday schedule, the Leafs kept up an energetic pace throughout the third period.

However, to beat the Canadiens these days you need a healthy, robust lineup and the Leafs didn’t have it. The Canadiens trailed twice in a fast, exciting game, but they went ahead for the first time late in the second period and scored the only goal in the final 20 minutes.

A crowd of 17,695 watched the game, ignoring the 15-below weather that made Montréal a deep freeze. They saw the Canadiens regain first place in the National Hockey League, jumping past the Boston Bruins by one point. The Leafs are three points behind.

The Leafs didn’t abandon their hopes of at least a tie until John Ferguson, a pugnacious outpatient of the Canadiens, scored their fourth goal at 13:55 of the third period.

Ferguson had been ailing with the flu, and there were pre-game expressions of concern that he might be too weak to administer a straight arm or an elbow.

However, the therapy of facing the Leafs restored him. A few weeks ago in Toronto he scored the goal that gave the Canadiens a 4-4 tie.

The Leafs went into the game without Floyd Smith and Mike Walton. Walton is sick in Toronto and Smith was injured in Chicago Wednesday night when he was hit by Bobby Hull.

Smith has a bruised chest that prevents him from elevating his arms, but a more thorough diagnosis of his injury will be made in Toronto today.

Dave Keon, who had been one of the more industrious Leafs, was injured in the second period when he pulled a groin muscle. He didn’t play in the third period.

Leaf coach George Imlach, deprived of one player from each of his two leading lines, designed an instant lineup that played adequately.

Terry Clancy, called up from Tulsa of the Central League, played right wing on a line with George Armstrong and Murray Oliver. Armstrong was the centre.

There was another line of Ron Ellis, Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson.

Imlach’s most imaginative creation was a threesome of Bob Pulford, Bill Sutherland and defenceman Pierre Pilote. Pulford was the centre with Pilote on right wing.

Pilote had been riding the bench for most of the third period until he was commissioned as a winger late in the game.

Leaf goalkeeper Bruce Gamble, who stopped many shots that would have ordinarily have qualified as goals, and also missed two of the routine type, was removed with 84 seconds left in the game.

The Leafs, with an extra forward, had one energetic flurry, but the Canadiens broke out of their own zone and Larry Mickey made one of the best stops of the game to prevent a goal by Jacques Lemaire.

Ralph Backstrom, Henri Richard and Bobby Rousseau scored Montréal’s other goals. Oliver and Ullman scored for the Leafs.

Rousseau’s goal, late in the second period, broke a 2-2 tie. He was deep in the right faceoff circle in the Leafs zone, and Gamble evidently assumed Rousseau would attempt a pass in front of the Toronto net. Gamble left the near post in cover, but Rousseau’s backhand shot hit the Toronto goalie and glanced into the net.

Ferguson, on his insurance goal, indicated he has a better aim when he has a jockey. Leaf defenceman Mike Pelyk was riding him sidesaddle when he cut in off the left wing, but Ferguson didn’t seem to notice. He took careful aim and beat Gamble with a low shot.

Backstrom scored his goal in the first period, a masterpiece of timing with Ferguson and defenceman Serge Savard. Backstrom, drifting backward in front of the Leaf net, steered Savard’s pass past Gamble.

Richard’s second period goal, which tied the score at 2-2, was set up by a pass from J.C. Tremblay, who qualified as the most capable Canadien in this game. Tremblay’s pass was partially slowed when the puck hit Tim Horton’s stick at the Toronto blueline, but Richard picked it up and floated in unobstructed to score.

Oliver’s goal in the first period gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead and Ullman’s score in the second moved them in front 2-1.

Oliver received credit for his sixth goal of the season on a power play. The puck, shot by Larry Mickey, hit Oliver’s skate and deflected past Montréal goalie Tony Esposito.

Tremblay was trying to carry the puck out of his own end when Ellis knocked the puck off his stick. Ullman, who had been in his usual orbit in front of the Montréal goal, swiped at the liberated puck and knocked it past Esposito.

Referee Vern Buffey was hurt in the third period, when he was jammed into the boards during a collision between the Leafs’ Jim Dorey and Richard. Buffey’s right leg was injured, but he continued after first aid from Montréal trainer Larry Aubut.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 27, 1968

1st Period
TOR PEN – 03:21 – Quinn, hooking
MTL PEN – 06:35 – Ferguson, holding
MTL PEN – 09:23 – Rousseau, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 09:45 – Oliver (Ellis, Mickey)
MTL GOAL – 11:13 – Backstrom (Savard, Ferguson)
TOR PEN – 13:15 – Pelyk, hooking
TOR PEN – 19:03 – Pulford, holding

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:43 – Ullman (Ellis)
MTL GOAL – 12:39 – Richard (Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 13:31 – Cournoyer, interference
TOR PEN – 13:31 – Dorey, interference
TOR PEN – 15:36 – Pelyk, interference
MTL GOAL – 17:58 – Rousseau

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 13:55 – Ferguson (Béliveau, Cournoyer)

MTL – Esposito (W, 34-36)
TOR – Gamble (L, 31-35)

MTL – 10+11+14 = 35
TOR – 13+11+12 = 36

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

MTL – 18-7-7 (.672)
TOR – 17-9-6 (.625)