Game 553 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 2

Game 553
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 2
Saturday, January 27, 1973
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

John McLellan shook his head, still stunned by the numbers of Montréal Canadiens either flying or in the reserve corps in a 4-2 win over his Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Their fourth line,” the Leaf coach noted, “Guy Lafleur, Réjean Houle and Marc Tardif, got two goals yet they didn’t even get on the ice in the third period.

“He (Canadien coach Scotty Bowman) has four lines that can kill you, spare players in the stands, and another line at his minor league team that least he could move in from would fit right in.”

Television viewers across Canada were treated to occasional closeups of McLellan behind the Leaf bench Saturday, turning paler and grayer with the realization of the difference between the teams. The win put the first-place Canadiens 36 points ahead of the sixth-place Leafs.

To their credit, the Leafs never seemed completely out of striking distance of a tie.

The Montréal team had plenty of offence in reserve all the way. Frank Mahovlich was notably uninspired, for example, yet he turned on enough speed to get clear for Jim Roberts’ setup and a shorthanded goal. Pete Mahovlich persisted, immovable around the net, for his 13th goal of the season, and Houle and Lafleur scored before being benched in the third period.

In the meantime, such promising rookies as Dave Gardner and Murray Wilson watched anxiously, forced into spectating roles by the full Canadien roster. Defenceman Dale Hoganson also watched, and Pierre Bouchard wasn’t missed at all while he sat out with a bruised hand.

Ken Dryden, considered important to any Canadien success a year ago, was in hospital resting his sore back and replacement Wayne Thomas had an easy night.

Steve Shutt, a Toronto Marlboro last season, finds himself at least temporarily fortunate enough to be in the Canadiens’ regular lineup, at the top of the struggling hordes who would be invaluable to most other teams.

“We have been together on our line (Shutt, Pete Mahovlich and Claude Larose) six games now,” he said. “That’s some kind of personal record. Scotty changes the lines so often, moving people in and out, that this is a streak for me.”

Shutt’s attitude reveals why the Canadiens should maintain their hold on first. “Let me tell you the way it is here. It’s good one way but it’s bad another. There’s no question about getting up for a game because if you aren’t, if you have one bad shift, if your check beats you for a goal, you know you can be replaced and you can end up in the stands for months and months.

“I was sent down to the Nova Scotia Voyageurs to get in shape, but before that I was with the Canadiens about three months and I only got into two games.

“Look at Dave Gardner (Shutt’s centre when both played for the Marlboros). He got in one game – on defence, he played the point. He got a goal and an assist and he hasn’t played since.” Shutt missed an open net but hustled enthusiastically throughout the game to hold his position for at least another game.

The excess of players does cause Bowman some problems. It’s extremely difficult for a coach to maintain high morale when he has no choice but to leave four or five players out of uniform every game. General manager Sam Pollock has most players signed to multi-year contracts so there is little danger of losing anyone except Lafleur to the World Hockey Association, which offers dissatisfied players money and plenty of ice time.

But, Bowman still has the impossible chore of avoiding conflict with his anxious athletes. He tries his best, with diplomatic statements.

“These kids, like Gardner and Shutt, really want to learn,” he says. “You can talk about rookies having bad attitudes and no patience, but these kids play well whenever they get on the ice, and they’ll have a good future right here.”

The players understand such quotations, designed to pat them on their backs. “The last time we played in Toronto,” said Shutt, “you had the story from Scotty about me getting a shot at playing regularly. I was on a little that night, and then I didn’t play for four or five games.

“But look, it would be all wrong to say I’m unhappy. Moving from the Marlboros to the Stanley Cup champions isn’t bad at all. And this is a great city to play in.”

Shutt’s only problem, now that he is playing regularly, is that he can’t sample the fare at the fantastic restaurants for which this city is known. The Canadiens are fussy about his weight, and they have instructed him to hold it at 180 pounds, 12 fewer than when he played for the Marlboros.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, January 29, 1973

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 05:53 – Houle (Tardif, Lafleur)
MTL GOAL – 13:38 – P. Mahovlich (Larose, Savard)
TOR GOAL – 17:52 – Kehoe (Sittler, Monahan)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 00:58 – Laperrière, holding
TOR PEN – 03:37 – Grisdale, cross checking
MTL PEN – 10:45 – Lefley, charging
MTL GOAL – 13:48 – Lafleur (Richard, Murdoch)
MTL PEN – 15:51 – Lapointe, charging
MTL SH GOAL – 17:49 – F. Mahovlich (Roberts)
TOR GOAL – 19:17 – Thompson

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 17:16 – Lefley, holding

MTL – Thomas (W, 19-21)
TOR – Low (L, 20-24)

MTL – 10+7+7 = 24
TOR – 8+5+8 = 21

MTLGoaltenders: Michel Plasse, Wayne Thomas. Defence: Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, Bob Murdoch, Jim Roberts, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer, Réjean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Claude Larose, Chuck Lefley, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Henri Richard (C), Steve Shutt, Marc Tardif.
TORGoaltenders: Ron Low, Gord McRae. Defence: Brian Glennie, John Grisdale, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk. Forwards: Terry Clancy, Denis Dupéré, Ron Ellis, George Ferguson, Paul Henderson, Pierre Jarry, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Garry Monahan, Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Norm Ullman.

MTL – 32-6-11 (.765)
TOR – 16-25-7 (.406)