Game 535 – Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 3

Game 535
Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 3
Wednesday, February 18, 1970
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

George Armstrong wasn’t fussy about playing this National Hockey League season but the Maple Leafs lured him out of his second retirement with a lucrative salary.

Armstrong has said several times that no noble motives dictated his return. There was no burning desire to help younger players mature or to help the Leafs in an emergency.

He simply couldn’t resist the money.

In Maple Leaf Gardens last night all the wampum Leafs are paying him. He scored the winning goal when the Maple Leafs took a fast, exciting 5-3 decision from the slumping Montréal Canadiens.

The Leafs embellished their lead when Dave Keon scored his second goal with 35 seconds left in the game. However, it was the 39-year-old Armstrong, in his 19th season, who revived the mistake-prone Leafs when they were starting to sag.

It was his 10th goal of the season, the 286th of his career, and seldom has he shown a nimbler execution.

The sellout crowd of 16,485 acclaimed his goal with the loudest cheer of the night and there was plenty of cheering throughout this high-speed contest.

Armstrong, confronted by Canadiens defenceman Terry Harper, made a stately fake, as if he intended to shoot. Harper, who had one of his most exasperating nights of the season, went for the fake and dropped to his knees. Armstrong looped around him and fired the puck behind goalie Phil Myre. Harper’s defence mate, Ted Harris, may have screened Myre on the shot.

That was merely a continuation of Harper’s misfortune.

In the first period he took a severe pounding from Jim Harrison, a Leaf centre. Harrison became angered when Harper tucked the Leaf player’s stick under his arm and wouldn’t let go.

Harrison, after trying unsuccessfully to yank his stick away, decided more basic methods were necessary. He threw his gloves away in a flash, grabbed Harper and threw him to the ice. Harrison landed about four or five solid right shots to Harper’s head before officials and other players descended on the pair.

Harrison eventually lost his sweater, but that was all that he lost. However, he was taken for X-rays of his right hand to Wellesley Hospital where it was discovered he had fractured a bone in his right index finger. He missed the entire second period and returned to a loud welcome for one shift in the third period.

Referee Art Skov evidently agreed the bout was no contest. He gave Harrison a major for fighting and a minor for roughing to Harper. Leafs coach John McLellan was so upset by this decision that he almost ventured on the ice to plead his case. Skov skated over to the Leafs’ bench where he and McLellan exchanged a few words.

This was the Leafs’ first win over the Canadiens in five games this season. It was also the third successive loss for the Canadiens, the first time they have had this embarrassing experience in more than two seasons.

The Canadiens showed flashes of their fast-skating, quick-breaking style, but were just as casual as the Leafs in their checking. The Canadiens used to perform with a minimum of errors but they made so many in this game it was almost possible to overlook the many faux pas made by the Leafs.

The Canadiens were dispirited at other times by the steady goaltending of the Leafs’ Bruce Gamble, who was forced to be vigilant at all times. He couldn’t trust anybody. He made a superlative stop on a hard shot by Jacques Lemaire in the second period, then made a fast move to stop Leaf defenceman Ricky Ley from cashing the rebound.

Bob Pulford and Ron Ellis were the Leafs’ other scores. Yvan Cournoyer, Henri Richard and Jean Béliveau scored for the Canadiens. It was the 300th NHL goal for Richard.

The Canadiens, after leading 2-1 at the end of the second period, had a 3-2 lead in the third before the Leafs hit back with three successive goals.

Keon scored the game’s first goal, his 25th of the season, on a power play in the second period. Harris tried to shoot the puck out of the Canadiens’ zone but Keon swung and hit Harris on the glove. The puck skidded to Pulford. He passed the puck back to Keon, who cut in front of the Montréal goal to fire the puck past Myre.

Cournoyer tied the score, emphasizing the value of keeping the stick blade on the ice. Lemaire shot the puck out of the left corner, it hit Cournoyer’s stick and deflected into the net without any effort on his part.

Pulford had a breakaway for the Leafs but, although he took plenty of time, he fired the puck into Myre’s pads. The Canadiens raced back down the ice to score with Richard blurring his 12th of the season past Gamble.

Pulford tied the score for the Leafs after seven seconds of play in the third period, jamming in Keon’s rebound with Montréal defenceman J.C. Tremblay lying in the goal crease. Béliveau regained the lead on a play set up by Pete Mahovlich. Mahovlich showed surprising speed to hurdle around Ley. Then he cut sharply out of the right corner to fire a shot at Gamble. Gamble stopped it and the rebound, also by Mahovlich. Béliveau, however, poked the puck in the open side.

Ellis tied the score for the Leafs. He aimed carefully from about 20 feet, and fired in the puck in the right side.

Twenty-nine seconds later Armstrong made his dramatic solo to score the winner.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 19, 1970

1st Period
MTL PEN – 03:43 – Laperrière, holding
TOR PEN – 15:38 – Harrison, fighting major
MTL PEN – 15:38 – Harper, roughing

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 04:35 – Laperrière, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 04:58 – Keon (Pulford)
MTL PEN – 05:27 – Harper, high sticking
MTL GOAL – 10:17 – Cournoyer (Lemaire, Backstrom)
MTL GOAL – 15:05 – Richard (Lemaire)

3rd Period
TOR GOAL – 00:07 – Pulford (Keon, Oliver)
MTL GOAL – 07:15 – Béliveau (Grenier, Mahovlich)
TOR GOAL – 09:40 – Ellis (Ullman, McKenny)
TOR GOAL – 10:09 – Armstrong (Walton, Selby)
TOR GOAL – 19:35 – Keon (Pulford, Glennie)

TOR – Gamble (W, 27-30)
MTL – Myre (L, 31-36)

TOR – 8+12+16 = 36
MTL – 10+9+11 = 30

TORGoaltenders: Bruce Gamble, Gerry McNamara. Defence: Brian Glennie, Tim Horton, Rick Ley, Jim McKenny, Pat Quinn. Forwards: George Armstrong, Ron Ellis, Jim Harrison, Paul Henderson, Dave Keon (C), Murray Oliver, Bob Pulford, Brit Selby, Floyd Smith, Norm Ullman, Mike Walton.
MTLGoaltenders: Phil Myre, Jack Norris. Defence: Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Jacques Laperrière, Serge Savard, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau (C), Christian Bordeleau, Yvan Cournoyer, Lucien Grenier, Jacques Lemaire, Peter Mahovlich, Claude Provost, Mickey Redmond, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau.

TOR – 23-22-10 (.509)
MTL – 28-15-13 (.616)


Dave Keon (TOR)
⭐⭐ Henri Richard (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ George Armstrong (TOR)