Game 542 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1

Game 542
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 1
Wednesday, March 10, 1971
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The mighty Montréal Canadien machine last night encountered serious starting difficulties and by the end of a 2-1 defeat by the Toronto Maple Leafs the so-called hottest team in hockey was hot only under the collar.

Al McNeil, coach of the Canadiens, painted a vivid picture of referee Bill Friday as the villain of the piece.

Many of the Canadiens’ mentioned the burden of first-period penalties as the reason behind a start so slow that the Leafs outshot them 18-3 in the opening 20 minutes.

It was as though the entire Canadien team had slept in, staggered to the bus stop, and then seen the bus door slammed in their faces.

The name of the bus drive was none other than Jacques Plante, the Toronto goaltender, who dominated the action with 28 stops in the last two periods, including one spectacular stop that could be called the greatest of the century.

Rogatien Vachon kept his teammates buyoant until they awoke in the second period. He was merely brilliant from then on, stopping 26 Leaf shots in the final two periods as play raced from end to end.

Denis Dupéré turned Guy Trottier’s rebound into a 1-0 lead with his first National Hockey League goal. John Ferguson tied the score in the second period when he tipped Marc Tardif’s shot, but Norm Ullman shot the winner in the third period.

McNeil’s dissatisfaction began with a penalty to Terry Harper, which was six seconds from expiry when Dupéré scored.

“That was a terrible, terrible call,” said McNeil. “Friday didn’t see the play clearly, and Dorey slipped and fell 15 or 20 feet from Harper, but he called it.”

That was only the start of McNeil’s night of discontent. When John Ferguson roughed up Garry Monahan and clearly initiated a fight, Friday gave Ferguson three minor penalties and Monahan one. Fergy was assessed one penalty for roughing and two for fighting.

He wasn’t very repentant, however, and when Friday ignored a Leaf infraction, Ferguson threw a towel to the ice.

“Only Bill Friday could make a call like he did on Ferguson,” continued McNeil. “He is an ass with no idea about the game. He pulls those calls out of the hat and he’s as hard to figure as the club we play against.

“It was hardly our fault that we started late, against eight minutes in penalties.”

The Leafs had three minor penalties and the Canadiens five in the first period.

McNeil conceded, however, that there was more to the loss than the officiating. “This is our fourth game in five nights,” he said. “And then to have to kill penalties early in the game, it’s gotta sap you.”

The Canadiens now trail the second-place New York Rangers by 12 points with 12 games remaining. They lead the fourth-place Leafs by only seven points but have a game in hand.

“Seven points and a game in hand,” Leafs coach John McLellan said stoically. “We’ll play them one at a time.”

The third-place team gets the dubious honour of playing off against the Boston Bruins in the first series of the playoffs. The Leafs will play the Canadiens in Montréal next Thursday, and a win there would make third place a realistic possibility.

McLellan’s main emotion after the game was relief, for Paul Henderson became ill just before game time and couldn’t play. McLellan juggled his lines, with Dupéré appearing most often in Henderson’s spot to the left of Ullman. George Armstrong also filled in during key situations.

“It was especially nice scoring the first goal tonight,” said Dupéré, “because normally the Wednesday night game isn’t on the Québec regional television network. With the Canadiens here, it was, and my folks in Jonquière, Québec would be watching.”

Ullman shot his winning goal with a corkscrew move after taking the setup pass from Ron Ellis, who had sped past Terry Harper and outwitted Jacques Laperrière.

Ullman, who faked Vachon and scored with a backhand, reacted with relief. He had been stuck for eight games at the 29-goal leve.

Plante was equally relieved, but for different reasons, and at the final buzzer he tore off his face mask and gave his first victory salute (arms raised) in weeks. Plante must be impressed with the effort of his teammates as well as himself before he flashes the sign.

“It was because I was so keyed up, so tense, for this game. This, after all, was the hottest team in hockey that we were going to face, and ever since I was told yesterday that I would be playing, I’ve been running their lines over in my mind.

“Every line has a killer, some guy who can shoot the puck from the blueline – Cournoyer, Lemaire, Roberto, although he didn’t shoot tonight.

“But, Lemaire. The ones he shot I could see he was going to shoot, so I came six feet out of the net and didn’t move. There is no use, trying to move, all you can do is cut down the angle and hope.

“The puck went by my arm and over the net, but I bet it didn’t miss by more than four inches.”

Plante’s most spectacular stop was on Jean Béliveau, with the score tied in the third period.

Plante zipped out of his net to the left in an attempt to clear a loose puck. Roberto beat him to it and passed over to Béliveau, who was clear in front of the right side of the gaping net.

Béliveau was shooting for his 22nd goal of the season when Plante interrupted by sliding across feet first to block the shot.

The win was the Leafs’ fourth in five games with the Canadiens.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 11, 1971

1st Period
TOR PEN – 01:00 – Baun, interference
MTL PEN – 03:00 – Béliveau, high sticking
TOR PEN – 04:32 – Baun, holding
MTL PEN – 08:16 – Harper, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 10:10 – Dupéré (Ullman, Trottier)
MTL PEN – 12:20 – Ferguson, roughing triple minor
TOR PEN – 12:20 – Monahan, roughing

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 03:57 – Baun, holding
MTL GOAL – 06:01 – Ferguson (Tardif)
TOR PEN – 06:44 – Dorey, holding
MTL PEN – 11:23 – Richard, charging
TOR PEN – 19:14 – Glennie, interference

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 09:57 – Monahan, playing with broken stick
TOR GOAL – 13:54 – Ullman (Ellis, Baun)

TOR – Plante (W, 31-32)
MTL – Vachon (L, 43-45)

TOR – 18+11+16 = 45
MTL – 3+15+14 = 32

TORGoaltenders: Bernie Parent, Jacques Plante. Defence: Bobby Baun, Jim Dorey, Brian Glennie, Rick Ley, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk. Forwards: George Armstrong, Denis Dupéré, Ron Ellis, Jim Harrison, Dave Keon (C), Billy MacMillan, Garry Monahan, Brian Spencer, Guy Trottier, Norm Ullman.
MTLGoaltenders: Phil Myre, Rogatien Vachon. Defence: Terry Harper, Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Jean Béliveau (C), Yvan Cournoyer, John Ferguson, Réjean Houle, Claude Larose, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Larry Pleau, Henri Richard, Phil Roberto, Bobby Sheehan, Marc Tardif.

TOR – 34-27-6 (.552)
MTL – 34-19-13 (.614)