Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1
Thursday, February 20, 1969
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec
Punch Imlach paced back and forth in the hallway adjacent to the Maple Leaf dressing room. His club had just been beaten 2-1 by the first-place Montréal Canadiens, but his thoughts were on other things.
Imlach’s head was down as he spoke. Occasionally he kicked at empty paper cups, which littered the floor.
“They tried…all the way. They didn’t quit on me. If Bruce Gamble keeps playing that way, we’re a sure pop to make it.”
“I thought our hockey club played awfully well, which is the important thing. It would have been nice to steal that one. We had.two or three real good chances in the final three or four minutes. We tie this one and we would have had a lot of people wondering.”
The Leafs were up against a far superior team last night, one that should have won by seven or eight goals. Many of the Canadiens would consider that estimate conservative.
It was only the uncanny wizardry of Gamble, and considerable luck that kept the Canadiens from running away with the game during the first two periods.
Gamble, who faced 39 shots, kept his team in the game and was on the bench during the final minute as the Leafs scrambled about with little organization attempting to tie the score.
Canadiens coach Claude Ruel put in a word for Gamble. “When a goalie stops 77 shots in two nights you’ve got to say he played pretty well.”
Anybody Gamble didn’t convince of his skill and luck during the Leafs’ 5-1 win in Toronto Wednesday would have been a believer after his brilliant display last night in defeat.
It seemed he had everybody’s number, especially forwards such as Ralph Backstrom, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire, Bobby Rousseau and John Ferguson.
So frustrated was Backstrom after failing to put the puck past Gamble in the second period, that he smashed his stick over the crossbar.
Cournoyer also rapped his stick against the steel bar after Gamble had stolen a goal from him.
When it appeared that there was no way the Canadiens could miss, Gamble would stick out a leg, hand, arm or a stick at the last moment and deflect the shot. The goalposts were also his friends. The Canadiens dinged five or six shots off the pipes.
On one occasion the puck squirted between Gamble’s skates and was rolling toward the goal line. But the Leaf netminder, acting as if he had eyes in the back of his head, flopped on his back and smothered the puck.
Gamble had little chance on Jean Béliveau’s goal, which gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in the first period. Béliveau took Yvan Cournoyer’s passout and drilled the puck into the top corner. Cournoyer had checked the puck away from defenceman Pat Quinn behind the net.
It was big Quinn who tied the score at 3:31 of the second period. He hustled up to the blueline to prevent the puck from escaping and slammed it back at the net.
The puck hit goalie Rogatien Vachon’s skate and squirted into the goal.
The winning goal by Dick Duff at 8:44 of the period came when Quinn was in the penalty box after tripping Henri Richard.
Many of the Leafs thought Richard was offside when he took a long lead pass and scooted in on Gamble. Quinn pulled him down and in so doing directed Richard into Gamble. The latter bruised his arm when he was knocked into the net.
The Canadiens scored nine seconds later when Duff recovered Lemaire’s drive off the goal post and quickly backhanded it past Gamble as the Leaf goalie sought the loose puck.
Bob Pulford, who next to Gamble was the best player for the Leafs, said “the puck was coming to me when it hit the linesman’s skate. It deflected over to the corner and was passed back to the point. If it hadn’t hit his skate, I would have been able to clear it.”
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 21, 1969
MTL GOAL – 09:21 – Béliveau (Cournoyer)
MTL PEN – 12:37 – Duff, high sticking
TOR PEN – 16:06 – Horton, holding
TOR GOAL – 03:34 – Quinn (Pulford, Sutherland)
MTL PEN – 04:06 – Lemaire, interference
TOR PEN – 08:35 – Quinn, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 08:44 – Duff (Lemaire, Cournoyer)
TOR PEN – 18:20 – Sutherland, interference
MTL PEN – 19:40 – Duff, tripping
MTL – Vachon (W, 22-23)
TOR – Gamble (L, 37-39)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 13+15+11 = 39
TOR – 6+5+12 = 23
MTL – Goaltenders: Rogatien Vachon, Ernie Wakely. 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.
TOR – Goaltenders: Johnny Bower, 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, Floyd Smith, Bill Sutherland, Norm Ullman.
MTL – 36-16-8 (.667)
TOR – 26-19-11 (.563)
⭐ Dick Duff (MTL)
⭐⭐ Bruce Gamble (TOR)
⭐⭐⭐ Rogatien Vachon (MTL)