Game 537 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2

Game 537
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday, March 25, 1970
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

The mass anxiety neurosis which has infected the greater Montréal area recently was partially received here last night.

The Canadiens, who were discovered slumming in fifth place in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Division recently, have indicated it was only a prank.

In the Forum last night they repelled an early challenge by the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 5-2 victory. This stretched the Canadiens’ undefeated record to eight games – six wins and two ties.

They launched it at a time when fears were being expressed throughout Québec that the Canadiens, Stanley Cup champions last season, might not qualify for the playoffs this year.

There was giddy relief among the 17,549 here last night that this was needless concern and some fans showed their embarrassment, at times, through superfluous applause.

There wasn’t much to get excited about unless it was the Canadiens’ ascent to third place, four points behind the leading Bruins.

That’s what a win can do for a team this late in the season. Earlier a 10-game unbeaten string was almost like marking time. Now, any of the first five teams can make a spectacular advance with only one win.

The Canadiens have five more games to play and they can still claim that first-place reservation they appeared to have abandoned weeks ago.

The Leafs, at times, were stubborn about it. Somehow they came out of the first period with a 2-1 lead. Both goals were scored by Terry Clancy, who has not been terrorizing goalkeepers this season.

However, that was all the Leafs’ puny offence could accomplish. The Canadiens didn’t look that formidable, but it wasn’t necessary. The Leafs had only 17 shots on goal throughout the game, eight coming in the third period.

John Ferguson was a two-goal scorer for the Canadiens. Ralph Backstrom, Bobby Rousseau and Jean Béliveau scored the others.

Béliveau watchers, and there are many, were cheered by his goal. He has been straining and laboring, reaching for the suave skill that used to come instinctively.

There were brief flashes that suggested he may be getting it back, but not enough to indicate his relapse is behind him. His goal, with little more than a minute left to play, was comparable to a golfer who snakes in a 50-foot putt on the 18th hole but still doesn’t break 100.

The Leafs, who have had uncommon misfortune with injuries and illness this season, kept that part of their record consistent.

Paul Henderson, who had discovered how to score goals in recent games, was knocked out by the flu or an allied ailment. He was sent home to Toronto yesterday.

Defenceman Brian Glennie was hit on the right side of his mouth in the third period by a shot fired by the Canadiens’ Larry Pleau. Glennie skated to the Forum hospital unassisted, but he didn’t return to the game.

The Leafs started the game without George Armstrong, Jim Harrison and Mike Walton, all convalescing from injuries.

Rookie Brian Spencer, who has played most of the season in the Central League with Tulsa, skated on a regular shift on a line with Norm Ullman and Ron Ellis. He is boisterous and willing, but the Canadiens out-finished him most of the time.

The Leafs could have made a stronger challenge to lengthen their winning streak to three games by interjecting a body check or two at the right time. However, even with Montréal players lined up for an assault, the humane Leafs threw on the brakes or detoured to avoid course collisions.

Exceptions were defencemen Rick Ley, Mike Pelyk and Glennie, who launched a few brawny checks. Jim McKenny played an effective game in a more refined way. Dave Keon kept uncoiling rush after rush but the puck always misbehaved at the last, or first, instant.

Encouraging for the Canadiens was the improvement in defenceman J.C. Tremblay. He had been benched earlier in the schedule and was pardoned only after Serge Savard was injured.

Tremblay had most of the guile and puck-handling skill he used to exhibit in other seasons when he was one of the league’s top defencemen. Even Forum fans, who have been cool to him lately, gave him generous applause. That should lift him – at least for one game.

Rousseau’s 24th goal of the season and the 200th of his NHL career gave the Canadiens a lead early in the first period but the Leafs went ahead on Clancy’s two goals, his fifth and sixth of the season.

Backstrom and Ferguson scored in the second period. Ferguson scored his second on a power play in the third period and Béliveau netted his 16th late in the game.

Originally, Rousseau was credited with a second goal, unassisted, in the second period. Later an assist was given to Ferguson. Still later, the goal was given to Backstrom, but Fergy kept his assist.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 26, 1970

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 01:50 – Rousseau (Backstrom)
TOR GOAL – 02:56 – Clancy (Oliver)
TOR GOAL – 11:20 – Clancy (Selby)
TOR PEN – 14:42 – Spencer, tripping
MTL PEN – 14:42 – Ferguson, roughing
TOR PEN – 14:42 – Ley, roughing
TOR PEN – 16:48 – Dorey, tripping
TOR PEN – 18:54 – Dorey, leaving penalty box

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 04:26 – Backstrom (Ferguson)
MTL GOAL – 12:37 – Ferguson (Rousseau, Backstrom)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 03:41 – Cournoyer, hooking
TOR PEN – 09:31 – Ley, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 11:06 – Ferguson (Tremblay, Laperrière)
MTL GOAL – 18:39 – Béliveau (Mickey, Laperrière)

MTL – Vachon (W, 15-17)
TOR – Gamble (L, 28-33)

MTL – 11+11+11 = 33
TOR – 5+4+8 = 17

MTLGoaltenders: Phil Myre, Rogatien Vachon. Defence: Terry Harper, Ted Harris, Jacques Laperrière, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Ralph Backstrom, Jean Béliveau (C), Yvan Cournoyer, John Ferguson, Peter Mahovlich, Larry Mickey, Larry Pleau, Claude Provost, Mickey Redmond, Henri Richard, Bobby Rousseau.
TORGoaltenders: Marv Edwards, Bruce Gamble. Defence: Jim Dorey, Brian Glennie, Rick Ley, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk, Pat Quinn. Forwards: Terry Clancy, Ron Ellis, Dave Keon (C), Murray Oliver, Bob Pulford, Brit Selby, Floyd Smith, Brian Spencer, Norm Ullman.

MTL – 37-19-15 (.627)
TOR – 29-29-12 (.500)