Game 548 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2

Game 548
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday, March 15, 1972
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Montréal Canadiens had the knockout blow, cocked and ready to deliver from the opening whistle, but they withheld it until the third period.

There was no doubt by themselves, by the Maple Leafs or by the 16,485 fans that the Canadiens could administer the crusher any time they wished. Although their superiority was evident, they didn’t confirm it on the scoreboard until they punched in two fast third-period goals to set up a 5-2 win.

The Canadiens, looking more like the strong skating and checking team that won the Stanley Cup last season, closed to two points of the second-place New York Rangers in the National Hockey League Eastern Division.

The Canadiens have assembled an 11-game undefeated string, 10 wins and a tie.

Frank Mahovlich, who scored two goals and assisted on two others, believes that second place might be the proper plateau for the Canadiens.

“We’ve got a good shot at it now,” he said. “We’ve got two more games with the Rangers and that should decide it.”

The loss removed the mantle of mystery that has enveloped the Leafs since King Clancy moved in as temporary coach eight games ago. They had won six and tied one in their previous seven games, but that record made absolutely no impression on the Canadiens.

There were prolonged interludes when the Canadiens, darting and whirling and skating in all directions, permitted the Leafs only brief glimpses at the puck.

“I’ve never seen the Canadiens play any better this season,” conceded Clancy. “We let them get away with this one. We had no drive. Also, they got an edge in the officiating, but I’m not gonna use that as an excuse.

“We didn’t play our positional game. They (the Canadiens) were running all over the rink, especially that (Frank) Mahovlich, but we couldn’t catch him.”

The Canadiens scored their first three goals on power plays, throwing the puck around with a consummate ease. It had a hypnotic effect on the Leafs and by the time the puck arrived at its intended destination, to the player parked in front, the Leafs were usually staggering somewhere else.

Goaltender Bernie Parent made numerous defiant stops, three on breakaways, but the only hope he had in this game was to board up the net and hoist a white flag.

Guy Lafleur, Guy Lapointe and Marc Tardif scored Montréal’s other goals. Norm Ullman and Bobby Baun scored for the Leafs.

The Leafs appeared tense and nervous early in the game, as if the burden of a seven-game unbeaten streak was weighing on them. Yvan Cournoyer took the puck from Rick Ley shortly after the game started and jetted down the right wing. Cournoyer slid the puck in front of the Toronto goal but Baun intercepted it. However, he donated it directly to Tardif and Parent needed to make the best of his 35 stops.

“They were tight,” said Clancy. “I could see it before the game. I tried to talk them out of it.”

The Canadiens, especially when Frank Mahovlich was on the ice, swarmed around the Toronto net at high speed. Either they pelted shots at Parent or experimented with their fancy passing.

Whenever the Leafs broke the pattern the Canadiens flew after them, often checking them from behind or compelling them to dribble shots at Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden.

The Leafs could submit 43 shots at the Montréal goal as evidence that perhaps Dryden was the most formidable player in the game. Although they could be right, this is nothing new. Dryden is almost invincible in most games.

He made several improbable stops in this one. His most dramatic one was on Paul Henderson late in the second period. Dryden kicked out a shot from Ron Ellis. Henderson swooped on the rebound and blazed a shot at the Montréal goal, Dryden stopped it with his left leg. He appeared hurt from the shot and there was speculation he was favouring his leg a little later when Ullman scored.

“The shots stung all right, but it had nothing to do with me missing Ullman’s shot. There was no way I was going to get that one.”

Pete Mahovlich was almost as conspicuous as elder brother Frank, but in a different way. Pete had three minor penalties, one each for charging, high-sticking and elbowing, plus a 10-minute misconduct for arguing with referee Bill Friday.

Pete was miffed when he was knocked into the boards near centre ice by Brian Glennie and Friday didn’t impose a penalty. Pete proceeded from there to smash Jim McKenny on the boards behind the Leafs net. He gave Denis Dupéré for a two-handed shove for an encore.

“I was a little annoyed with the referee,” he said. “I didn’t even know I had been called for a penalty. I thought it should have gone to the other guy (Glennie).

The Leafs best offensive moves came when the line of Ullman, Henderson and Ellis was on the ice. Henderson launched some of the hottest shots of the game at Dryden, but this line squandered many scoring opportunities with erratic shooting. Much of this, of course, was helped by the constant harassment of the Canadiens.

Lafleur scored his 27th goal of the season while the Leafs’ Mike Pelyk was in the penalty box. He steered the puck in the open side from a couple of feet outside the crease. Frank Mahovlich made it 2-0 with a similar finishing touch. He was parked near the left goal-post and he merely directed Lafleur’s lateral inside the post. Parent was occupied on the other side. The Leafs had two players in the penalty box, the Canadiens one, at the time.

Baun scored his second goal of the season early in the second period and the Leafs were closer than they deserved. Dryden was out of the net after stopping a shot from Ullman when Baun and Jacques Laperrière swiped at the puck in front of the crease. It blooped into the net. Lapointe restored the Canadiens’ two-goal lead. McKenny lost the puck to Frank Mahovlich and he floated a pass to Lapointe, just as he arrived in front of Parent. The Montréal defenceman knocked the puck in the net. The Leafs’ Darryl Sittler was off for holding at the time.

McKenny set up Ullman’s goal shortly before the period ended. The Leafs’ defenceman rolled deep into the right corner in the Montréal zone and threw the puck out in front. Ullman, near the far post, snapped it past the lunging Dryden.

The Canadiens scored their final two goals in a span of two minutes and 40 seconds in the third period. Henri Richard summoned some of his old guile to squirt around McKenny at the Toronto blueline and ghost into the corner. Tardif slapped his pass behind Parent. Frank Mahovlich scored his second goal after a couple of other players had taken cracks at the puck.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 16, 1972

1st Period
MTL PEN – 05:13 – P. Mahovlich, charging + misconduct
TOR PEN – 08:38 – Pelyk, roughing
MTL PP GOAL – 10:05 – Lafleur (F. Mahovlich, Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 13:17 – F. Mahovlich, holding
TOR PEN – 17:15 – Glennie, tripping
MTL PEN – 18:30 – P. Mahovlich, high sticking
TOR PEN – 18:30 – Baun, cross checking
MTL GOAL – 19:15 – F. Mahovlich (Lemaire, Tardif)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 00:41 – Baun (Ullman, Henderson)
TOR PEN – 11:30 – Sittler, holding
MTL PP GOAL – 12:32 – Lapointe (F. Mahovlich, Tremblay)
MTL PEN – 18:08 – Murdoch, holding
TOR PP GOAL – 19:22 – Ullman (McKenny)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 05:57 – P. Mahovlich, elbowing
MTL GOAL – 13:16 – Tardif (Richard)
MTL GOAL – 15:56 – F. Mahovlich (Houle, Lapointe)
TOR PEN – 19:10 – Baun, high sticking

MTL – Dryden (W, 41-43)
TOR – Parent (L, 35-40)

MTL – 16+12+12 = 40
TOR – 10+14+19 = 43

MTLGoaltenders: Denis DeJordy, Ken Dryden. Defence: Dale Hoganson, Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, Bob Murdoch, Jim Roberts, J.C. Tremblay. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer, Réjean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Claude Larose, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Larry Pleau, Henri Richard (C), Marc Tardif.
TORGoaltenders: Bernie Parent, Jacques Plante. Defence: Bobby Baun, Brian Glennie, Rick Ley, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk, Brad Selwood. Forwards: Denis Dupéré, Ron Ellis, Jim Harrison, Paul Henderson, Pierre Jarry, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Billy MacMillan, Garry Monahan, Darryl Sittler, Norm Ullman.

MTL – 43-14-13 (.707)
TOR – 30-28-12 (.514)


Frank Mahovlich (MTL)
⭐⭐ Ken Dryden (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ J.C. Tremblay (MTL)