Game 554 – Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1

Game 554
Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 1
Sunday, February 18, 1973
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Ken Dryden had a visitor yesterday, not long after the frantic finish of the Montréal Canadiens’ 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, which ended with Darryl Sittler and assorted others whacking at the puck from close range in a futile leap for a tie.

“I thought,” said Murray Dryden, the goaltender’s father, “you weren’t going to get up after a few of those shots. The Leafs really gave it everything.”

Dryden had played his first full game since a back condition sidelined him after the Canadiens tied the California Golden Seals at Oakland, January 12. He relieved Michel Plasse for about 25 minutes of Saturday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but this was his first start.

“Y’know,” he said to his father, “you wonder how much of something like this is psychological. The last couple of days since I have known I was coming back, there hasn’t been any problem with the back.”

At any rate, Dryden termed yesterday a satisfactory test, one which left him extremely tired but enthusiastic about the recovery from the disc protrusion that had forced him into hospital for a week.

“It had to be a good sign for me. It was such a scrambly game, with little deflections and little screen shots, I was up and down and side to side a lot. It was a difficult game, yet I’m satisfied.”

Dryden’s strong return makes the Canadiens’ chances of finishing first in the National Hockey League Eastern Division extremely promising. Pete Mahovlich, Claude Larose and Chuck Lefley remained out of uniform with injuries yesterday, but Lefley probably will play Wednesday.

Mahovlich and Larose will be ready within two weeks, so the Montréal team will be at full strength for the final weeks of the schedule, barring further injuries.

“I’m ready to play as many games as they ask me to,” said Dryden, who played 36 of the Canadiens’ first 42 games. “I love to play, but you have to recognize that when Plasse and Wayne THomas have played, they have played well.

“My timing isn’t right yet. I was giving up too many rebounds, because in a first game like this you tend to want to get as much as you can behind every shot. It’s unbelievable how nervous you can be, wondering if you will be ready, and then with a one-goal lead it adds to your nervousness.”

The Leafs helped Dryden forget his initial case of nerves because they skated with determination and effectiveness seldom shown in three preceding games against the Canadiens, all losses. In the first game, also at the Gardens, the teams tied 2-2 and that result easily could have been repeated yesterday, but for Dryden’s alertness.

Led by Sittler, Rick Kehoe and Norm Ullman, the Leafs had a slight edge in the first period. But the visitors scored two goals in 26 seconds of the second period’s second minute, Jim Roberts getting a shot through a screen and past Jacques Plante and Steve Shutt beating the elderly goaltender with a shot that may have turned his gray hair greyer.

For a few moments after the Canadiens took their 2-0 lead the Leafs sagged as though they were mentally beaten. Then Kehoe was launched by an Ullman pass which put him behind defenceman Bob Murdoch, and his 24th goal of the season restored the Leafs’ enthusiasm.

“Kehoe came arcing in and just as he was curling in he flipped it up high,” explained Dryden. “It was an excellent play. I should have maybe forced him a little more.”

A reporter asked Dryden to recall the more difficult shots among the Leafs’ 41. “Really it was the kind of game where you don’t remember very many shots, because there were so many tips and short shots. I remember the first of the game, where somebody let it go from the point and Sittler was in front. It went through his legs, too.”

Plante had specific shots he could remember. Shutt’s, for instance.

“That was the first time I played against him, really, and I was surprised. He’s got a lot of beef on his shot and I got a piece of it but couldn’t hold it.

“I can tell you this about Shutt. After his goal I made sure I moved out on him, like you would against Bobby Hull, to cut down what he had to shoot at. He’s like Paul Henderson or Geoffrion (Bernie), he doesn’t wind up, he lets it go quickly.”

Plante was impressed with the former Toronto Marlboro’s energetic approach. What he didn’t know was, Shutt was playing his first game as a regular in several weeks.

“When Pete and Rosy (Mahovlich and Larose) where injured, I went straight to the bench,” said Shutt.

“Finally I got back on the ice in the second half of Saturday’s game. I got four points, too, but my timing is off from all that sitting around. The Leafs made it tough, too, because they really played well. They were good, and we were tired from that tough game Saturday and the train ride overnight from Montréal.”

Shutt didn’t mention Plante, but the 43-year-old goaltender was one of the outstanding contributors against the Canadien cause.

“Great game, master,” Mike Pelyk said quietly to Plante as the Leaf dressing room cleared, and the goalie was smiling with the knowledge he had played well.

The Leafs got strong performances from their defence pairs of Mike Pelyk and John Grisdale and Dave Fortier and Jim McKenny.

“Their inexperience shows,” Plante said. “You never know what will happen. But they are playing well and Fortier is a big surprise. They told me Fortier played poorly at Tulsa, giving the puck away and skating all over the place, but he can’t be faulted here.”

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 19, 1973

1st Period
TOR PEN – 15:10 – McKenny, tripping
MTL PEN – 18:30 – Savard, interference

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 01:15 – Roberts (Richard, Mahovlich)
MTL GOAL – 01:41 – Shutt (Savard)
TOR GOAL – 05:05 – Kehoe (Ullman)
TOR PEN – 16:51 – McKenny, hooking

3rd Period

MTL – Dryden (W, 40-41)
TOR – Plante (L, 43-45)

MTL – 13+16+16 = 45
TOR – 14+13+14 = 41

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Plasse. Defence: Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, Bob Murdoch, Jim Roberts, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer, Dave Gardner, Réjean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Henri Richard (C), Steve Shutt, Murray Wilson.
TORGoaltenders: Ron Low, Jacques Plante. Defence: Dave Fortier, John Grisdale, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk. Forwards: Ron Ellis, George Ferguson, Pierre Jarry, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Garry Monahan, Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Norm Ullman.

MTL – 38-8-13 (.754)
TOR – 19-32-7 (.388)