Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 2
Saturday, January 1, 1972
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario
The Toronto Maple Leafs had this party planned, a New Year’s team get-together for Saturday night, but the preparations weren’t really completed until an hour or so before it was scheduled to start.
That was when the Montréal Canadiens helped ensure a good time for all by fizzling like fireworks in a New Year’s blizzard.
The Leafs beat the Canadiens 5-2 and the style was such it reversed the potential trend of party chitchat from what’s wrong with the team to what’s right with it.
What happened was, the Canadiens blew 1-0 and 2-1 leads and showed all the disturbing habits the Leafs usually save for their big games.
It was the first Leaf win in 11 games against the Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Chicago Black Hawks. Against these teams, the recognized elite of the National Hockey League, the team previously had lost seven and tied three, often by making mistakes which cancelled early leads.
Four goals in the third period won Saturday’s game for the home team, left the 16,485 fans in Maple Leaf Gardens applauding loudly enough to drown out The Sweetest Sounds This Side of Heaven, and set the team up for the get-together at Dave Keon’s.
Keon, incidentally, passed to Garry Monahan on a Leaf power play for the low, accurate shot to the far corner of Phil Myre’s net that tied the score at 2-2.
Ron Ellis, Paul Henderson and Norm Ullman scored the other third-period goals in the final five minutes. The Canadiens had led after two periods on power play goals by Guy Lafleur and Frank Mahovlich, with Brad Selwood’s first goal of the season keeping the Leafs’ early involvement credible.
Ullman turned the game around, converting Canadien defencemen’s errors into scoring plays.
J.C. Tremblay, the all-star from Montréal, was fascinated with his own artistry twisting evasively at the Leaf blueline when Bob Baun questioned hte movement with a check and Ullman simultaneously stole the puck.
Ellis took Ullman’s pass and won the game with a hard shot. Jim Roberts, the only Canadien defending because Tremblay had been left far behind, could serve only as a screen for Ellis on the one-on-one play.
Ullman’s next act took advantage of a faux-pas by Terry Harper, whose attempt to clear along the boards in his own zone invited interception. Ullman took over and beat Pete Mahovlich’s checking to set up Henderson’s 21st of the season.
Ullman’s own goal, a conversion of Mike Pelyk’s shot from the Canadien blueline, was most effective as well as a disappointment for those players of the pools who held tickets corresponding with Henderson’s scoring time.
Ullman scored with 14 seconds remaining, and by then the Canadiens were thoroughly beaten.
As Monahan observed, “they collapsed, let’s face it. They had the game and they collapsed, just like we did so many times in games we had to win if we wanted to move up in the standing.”
The Leafs started their New Year’s party only five points behind the third-place Canadiens.
How little difference there is in the records of the Leafs and Canadiens was pointed out before Saturday’s game by Scotty Bowman, the Montréal coach, as he complained about his team’s laxity.
“If you take the four points from our two wins against Toronto, and give them to Toronto, then they would have one more point than us. What that means is, they’ve played better than we have against the rest of the teams in the league.”
The Canadiens’ record against Boston, New York and Chicago is far superior to the Leafs, indicating Bowman may be worried unnecessarily. But, Bowman wants first place in the Eastern Division, and his players’ inability to show the same desire through complete games mystifies him.
The Leafs don’t openly admit to any aspirations beyond making the playoffs and finishing, in general manager Jim Gregory’s usual words, “as high as we can.”
But, the previous failure to win against teams of Montréal’s calibre did grate on players and management. Even the traditional “anything can happen once we get in the playoffs” didn’t offer much hope as long as the Leafs hadn’t beaten any team they might meet in the quarter-finals.
“It’s nice to beat one of the big clubs,” coach John McLellan understated. “It’s one of thing to be happy with winning the games you figure on winning and keeping up with the big teams that way. But in the back of your mind you know you have to beat the top guys if you’re ever going to climb.”
McLellan thought over the game as he lounged in the attention of reporters, including several from Montréal who had become used to hearing him talk about losses.
“I thought Jacques Plante made the key save of the game on Pete Mahovlich’s breakaway. They were ahead 1-0, and if Mahovlich scored they might have opened right up.”
Also, the game (and the party) would have taken on a different aspect for Ullman, whose pass Mahovlich took for the breakaway.
“Goaltending means so much,” McLellan continued. “In Montréal (December 22) they got great goaltending and we blew our 2-0 lead. Tonight, we got the goaltending.”
McLellan also was impressed with the play of Rick Kehoe, with the Leafs for his first game after being called up from the Tulsa Oilers of the Central League as an emergency replacement.
“Kehoe did all the work on our first goal, earning that assist.”
Denis Dupéré attended but wasn’t in uniform because of his bruised throat; Jim Harrison remained in hospital with an infected throat, a complication of his bruised larynx; and defenceman Jim Dorey missed because of his severely cut finger.
The Leafs’ best break, perhaps, was the restriction of Canadiens goaltender, Ken Dryden, to the Maple Leaf Gardens press box. Dryden injured his back in the December 22 game against the Leafs when he skated out and dived at Ullman as the Toronto skater attempted to control the puck for a break at goal.
On the same play, Ullman severely jammed a thumb. But he has been able to continue to play and, based on his third-period performance, it now can be said fairly that while Dryden won the duel on December 22, Ullman won the game Saturday.
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 3, 1972
MTL PEN – 01:06 – Roberts, elbowing
TOR PEN – 11:58 – Glennie, hooking
MTL PP GOAL – 13:45 – Lafleur (Laperrière, Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 19:00 – P. Mahovlich, slashing
TOR PEN – 01:42 – MacMillan, roughing double minor
MTL PEN – 01:42 – Lemaire, roughing double minor
TOR GOAL – 08:04 – Selwood (Kehoe, Sittler)
TOR PEN – 17:02 – Baun, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 18:51 – F. Mahovlich
TOR PEN – 19:39 – Ley, spearing
MTL PEN – 03:21 – Larose, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 04:46 – Monahan (Keon, MacMillan)
TOR GOAL – 15:40 – Ellis (Ullman)
TOR GOAL – 17:27 – Henderson (Ullman)
MTL PEN – 18:23 – F. Mahovlich, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 19:46 – Ullman (Pelyk, McKenny)
TOR – Plante (W, 28-30)
MTL – Myre (L, 26-31)
SHOTS ON GOAL
TOR – 9+8+14 = 31
MTL – 8+12+10 = 30
TOR – Goaltenders: Bernie Parent, Jacques Plante. Defence: Bobby Baun, Brian Glennie, Rick Ley, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk, Brad Selwood. Forwards: Ron Ellis, Paul Henderson, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Billy MacMillan, Don Marshall, Garry Monahan, Darryl Sittler, Brian Spencer, Guy Trottier, Norm Ullman.
MTL – Goaltenders: Denis DeJordy, Phil Myre. Defence: Pierre Bouchard, Terry Harper, Jacques Laperrière, Jim Roberts, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Chuck Arnason, Yvan Cournoyer, Réjean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Claude Larose, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Henri Richard (C), Marc Tardif.
⭐ Jacques Plante (TOR)
⭐⭐ J.C. Tremblay (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Norm Ullman (TOR)