Game 551 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2

Game 551
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday, November 8, 1972
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

The Canadiens didn’t find their 5-2 win last night satisfying, and naturally the Toronto Maple Leafs felt worse.

It was a game only a winning gambler could love.

“We should have got a tie,” said Leaf coach John McLellan. “The guys worked their guts out and all they got was this.”

Scotty Bowman, the Canadiens’ coach, felt little better. “How is it,” he wanted to know, “that the Leafs always seem to get up more for our games than we do?”

John Grisdale and Brian Glennie, Leaf defencemen who gave the puck away for the Canadiens’ first two scores, were inconsolable.

Ron Low, the Leafs’ goaltender, was blaming himself.

And Peter Mahovlich, the Canadien who shot the winning goal and then made it 4-2 with a shot into the open Leaf goal in the final minute, also was far from elated. “We play well and then we sag. We can’t go on like this, because you can’t always come back for a win.”

The Canadiens lead the National Hockey League Eastern Division with 24 points, while the Leafs repose in sixth with 12. The Leafs, however, looked good enough for a tie or a win through the first two periods and half of the second, while the plays of Les Canadiens were pretty but not often successful.

The Montréal team opened impressively, testing Low with a half dozen shots in the first few minutes while buzzing around the Leaf zone like Russians. But the Leafs took a temporary 1-0 lead when Rick Kehoe’s passout was directed by Canadien defenceman Bob Murdoch to Darryl Sittler. The goal was Sittler’s eighth of the season.

The Canadiens tied the score two minutes later when Jacques Lemaire slipped a pass around Grisdale to Chuck Lefley open in front of Low’s crease.

Glennie’s post-game remorse stemmed from the play that led to a 2-1 Canadien lead. Attempting to clear to Ron Ellis, Glennie gave the puck to Lemaire, who eased over to an appropriate spot in the slot from which to unleash his 13th goal of the season.

Paul Henderson tipped Mike Pelyk’s shot from the blueline for the 2-2 score coach McLellan would have considered so appropriate. In fact, the Leafs threatened early in the third period. But another error, this time by Grisdale, sent Mahovlich on his way for the winner. Grisdale was being checked by Claude Larose and didn’t see Mahovlich when he gave up the puck.

Frank Mahovlich got the puck to brother Peter for the final-minute goal. Low had been pulled with one minute, 14 seconds remaining. He returned to be beaten by Jim Roberts’ shot for the 5-2 final.

“The guys deserved a tie,” McLellan repeated, “but, then, you can’t have those glaring errors like the ones that led to two of their goals.”

Low said “I didn’t play the angles at all well. But, what are you going to do?

“Yeah, it was a good shot by Mahovlich. But if you’re out five feet, a good shot can be stopped.

“I don’t know what happened on Roberts’ goal. He just beat me. I’d like to see a film.

“How’s my confidence? It was great after two periods, I dunno about now.”

McLellan, Leaf scout and goaltending coach Johnny Bower, and Jacques Plante all congratulated Low. He shook his head.

Far worse than the blow to the confidence was the shot by Peter Mahovlich that sent him to the bench in pain in the second period. The last time he was hit on the same spot, the tip of the left shoulder, he had difficulty moving his arm for three months. That was in the Central Hockey League playoffs, and he missed the last three games of the final and three months of golf.

“It hurts just to touch it, and it’s really sore now.” Trainer Joe Sgro supplied an ice pack for the flight back to Toronto.

But the seriousness of the injury, which ruins his catching hand’s effectiveness, won’t be known until today when the Leafs practice at noon.

“I had plenty of time when I got the puck from that Toronto defenceman (Grisdale),” said Peter Mahovlich, “and I remembered how he handled that high shot, so I thought he might be looking for another one.”

Mahovlich shot from 35 feet, bringing his stick back high before releasing a hard, low missile.

Bowman said he hasn’t been satisfied with his players’ performance in the past few home games. “We’ve been playing our best hockey on the road.

“We did play a bit better than this in our loss here to Detroit, but they played a lot better (than the Leafs). They really played well.

“Tonight, I was surprised. Our best line was Lemaire, Lefley and Yvan Cournoyer, and I had thought they would hold their own against Keon, Ellis and Henderson while our other lines came through. But they were the only line really moving.”

What the paying customers, 16,016, saw, then, was a loose game in which both teams had plenty of scoring chances. Pierre Jarry and Ron Ellis had breaks and missed, the Canadiens didn’t.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, November 9, 1972

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 11:36 – Sittler (Kehoe)
MTL GOAL – 13:38 – Lefley (Lemaire, Cournoyer)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:58 – Roberts, hooking
MTL GOAL – 06:25 – Lemaire
TOR GOAL – 10:40 – Henderson (Pelyk, Ellis)
TOR PEN – 13:25 – Sittler, tripping

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 06:53 – Jarry, hooking
MTL GOAL – 10:27 – P. Mahovlich (Larose)
TOR PEN – 10:47 – Jarry, holding
MTL EN GOAL – 19:12 – P. Mahovlich (F. Mahovlich)
MTL GOAL – 19:21 – Roberts (Savard, Richard)

MTL – Dryden (W, 29-31)
TOR – Low (L, 32-36)

MTL – 12+11+14 = 37
TOR – 10+14+7 = 31

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Plasse. Defence: Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, Bob Murdoch, Jim Roberts, Serge Savard. Forwards: Chuck Arnason, Yvan Cournoyer, Réjean Houle, Claude Larose, Chuck Lefley, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Henri Richard (C), Steve Shutt, Marc Tardif, Murray Wilson.
TORGoaltenders: Ron Low, Jacques Plante. Defence: Brian Glennie, John Grisdale, Joe Lundrigan, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk. Forwards: Ron Ellis, George Ferguson, Paul Henderson, Pierre Jarry, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Garry Monahan, Randy Osburn, Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson.

MTL – 10-1-4 (.800)
TOR – 5-7-2 (.429)