Game 552 – Canadiens 8, Maple Leafs 4

Game 552
Canadiens 8, Maple Leafs 4
Wednesday, January 3, 1973
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Jacques Plante had the flu, Ron Low had brochitis and by the end of last night’s 8-4 loss to the Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leaf coach John McLellan and general manger Jim Gregory had a rather sickly feeling themselves.

“Geez, we have to come up with a goaltender for practice,” Gregory said, referring to this morning’s workout. “Bower (retired goaltender Johnny Bower) is down in Tulsa trying to help one of our young guys there, and Gerry McNamara is scouting European tournaments.

“The doctor told both Low and Plante to stay home in bed. We won’t be calling up Gord McRae, because they should be ready for our next game Saturday.

“But, the guy we really need back is Brian Glennie. He can’t skate yet, and he’s getting treatments for the sprained ankle twice a day.”

Last night was a time for doubts, with Plante retiring after the Canadiens scored their fourth goal in the third minute of the second period and Low in the nets for the final four. But, none of the doubts concerned the goaltenders. The Leafs’ problem was defence.

“If Low and Plante had been right, it might have been a different game,” said McLellan. “But the fact remains this was our worst game defensively of the season.

“We didn’t hit anybody and if you let that team skate, you’ve had it. Every one of those guys can shoot the puck.”

The defence combination of Mike Pelyk and Larry McIntyre was on the ice for five and four goals respectively, overwhelmed by the Montréal ganging attack. In the usual Leaf blueline setup, Pelyk combines with Jim McKenny, while Glennie works with either McIntyre or Joe Lundrigan, both of whom are rookies. But Glennie’s absence left the never remarkable Leaf defence in worse condition than usual.

Darryl Sittler’s 14th and 15th goals of the season gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead in the first period and provided a false impression for the 16,435 fans, who applauded wildly as the Leafs enjoyed the best of the fast-skating play.

But Pete Mahovlich, the gigantic centre who has been a disappointment for the Canadiens, was playing his best game of the season, according to observers from Montréal, and he played a large role in swinging the edge to the Canadiens.

The Canadiens went ahead 3-2 in the final three minutes of the first period.

Jacques Lemaire shot his 30th goal of the season, from five feet outside of the blueline for the first Canadiens goal. Then Pete Mahovlich set up his brother Frank, who had lost his check and got behind McKenny, to tie the game two minutes later, and after another 18 seconds the younger Mahovlich got the puck back to Yvan Cournoyer off a faceoff against Sittler. The goal was Cournoyer’s 23rd.

“When Peter is working hard,” observed Claude Ruel, the Canadiens’ former coach, “and Frank is skating, they’re very difficult to stop. It makes a big difference to this team.”

Leaf coach McLellan allowed that he has never seen Pete Mahovlich play badly. “He always seems to be flying when we play them.

“The goal that killed us, I thought, was Lemaire’s. Up until then, we were playing well. But what a sizzler, and they took over after that.”

Plante was ill between periods but returned for the second. He lasted two minutes until Cournoyer made it 4-2, skating by McIntyre at a speed McLellan estimated whimsically at 100 miles an hour, cutting in and easily scoring.

Then Plante headed for the dressing room and Low skated out to the slaughterhouse. “I was weak,” Low said, “and I couldn’t take a deep breath. But other than that I felt great. I wasn’t going down except when I had to…but it was one of those nights.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with me Tuesday. I went to the doctor to check to see if I had pneumonia, and it turns out I have bronchitis. I’m taking something, like penicillin only stronger.”

Gregory, who has developed the flu himself, admitted he had considered calling Gord McRae from the Tulsa farm team as an emergency standby last night. “But the doctor told me Low and Plante would be able to make it okay.”

Low made an excellent stop on Frank Mahovlich and pokechecked the puck away from Bob Murdoch as he threatened during his first few minutes in goal. It was obvious the Leafs weren’t about to give up, because Canadien goaltender Ken Dryden was tested with close-in shots by Dave Keon and Paul Henderson.

Errol Thompson cut the score to 4-3 with a hard drive that surprised Dryden. It was the seventh goal of the season for the rookie left wing, whose shot is surprising goaltenders around the league, and Ron Ellis’ assist gave him a career total of 400 points.

The Canadiens’ shooting ability was proven again, however, during a Leaf power play. Frank Mahovlich floated into the Leaf zone, passed to Jim Roberts, and then skated wide, diverting defencemen Pelyk and McIntyre. Roberts’ screened shot made it 5-3.

Ellis continued the game’s pattern of goals from long, hard shots when he accepted a Thompson pass and skated clear before shooting from 40 feet, bringing the Leafs within one goal again. But Guy Lapointe scored from the point to make it 6-4 at the end of the second period.

Chuck Lefley, who goes unnoticed playing left wing with Cournoyer and Lemaire, scored his 10th goal of the season early in the third. He skated around McIntyre and beat Low from a bad angle.

Steve Shutt completed the Canadien scoring after Pelyk’s centring pass went to Cournoyer, who relayed to the former Toronto Marlboro. The goal was the second of the season for Shutt, who Canadien coach Scotty Bowman hopes to play more and more.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 4, 1973

1st Period
TOR PEN – 04:04 – Pelyk, interference
MTL PEN – 08:41 – Cournoyer, hooking
TOR PP GOAL – 09:42 – Sittler (Dupéré, Kehoe)
TOR GOAL – 14:15 – Sittler (Kehoe, Pelyk)
MTL GOAL – 17:28 – Lemaire (Bouchard, Lapointe)
MTL GOAL – 19:36 – F. Mahovlich (P. Mahovlich, Roberts)
MTL GOAL – 19:54 – Cournoyer (P. Mahovlich)

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 02:01 – Cournoyer (Richard)
TOR PEN – 06:19 – Clancy, elbowing
TOR GOAL – 09:15 – Thompson (Keon, Ellis)
MTL PEN – 09:47 – Bouchard, interference
MTL SH GOAL – 11:41 – Roberts (F. Mahovlich)
TOR GOAL – 13:21 – Ellis (Thompson, Lundrigan)
MTL GOAL – 15:09 – Lapointe (Bouchard, F. Mahovlich)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 02:22 – Lefley
MTL PEN – 10:43 – Lafleur, tripping
MTL GOAL – 16:58 – Shutt (Cournoyer)

MTL – Dryden (W, 37-41)
TOR – Plante (20-24), Low (L, 16-20)

MTL – 16+16+12 = 44
TOR – 17+12+12 = 41

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Plasse. Defence: Pierre Bouchard, Dale Hoganson, Guy Lapointe, Bob Murdoch, Jim Roberts, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur, 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: Joe Lundrigan, Larry McIntyre, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk. Forwards: Terry Clancy, Denis Dupéré, Ron Ellis, George Ferguson, Paul Henderson, Pierre Jarry, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Garry Monahan, Randy Osburn, Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Norm Ullman.

MTL – 23-6-9 (.724)
TOR – 12-20-6 (.395)