Game 557 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1

Game 557
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1
Wednesday, November 7, 1973
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Wayne Thomas, a year ago the backup to Ken Dryden’s backup, continued last night as the Montréal Canadiens’ latest wunderkind goaltender, dominating in a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thomas remains the only undefeated regular in the National Hockey League, participating in six wins and two ties since he took over for Michel Larocque.

Since Thomas played in only 10 games with the Canadiens last season, he is eligible for the rookie-of-the-year award this year. Dryden won the award, the Calder Trophy, for the 1971-72 season.

He may have been slightly better than usual against the Leafs, for he lowered his goals-against average to 1.38.

The Canadiens found the power-play success they had lacked against other recent opponents. The Montréal team hadn’t scored a power-play goal in four games, but they got three last night.

Steve Shutt effectively brought the suspense of the game to an end with his conversion of a Jacques Laperrière rebound early in the final period. At that point an uneasy calm fell over the crowd of 16,485, and almost half of the red seats were vacated with two minutes remaining. Even the Gardens organist became increasingly silent, his instrument short-circuited by Thomas.

The route from flunking tryouts with the Toronto Marlboros (twice) and the Niagara Falls Flyers to knocking out the Leafs was full of detours for Thomas. In fact, he spent most of last season expecting a return ticket to Halifax and the Canadiens’ Nova Scotia Voyageurs.

“They sent me down last fall, after I started the season in Montréal, but didn’t get in a game. I was down there a month and expected to be called back to the Canadiens, but then Al (coach Al MacNeil) told me they wanted me to stay in Halifax.

“I didn’t think they could force me to stay (because of league waiver rules) so I told him I’d go back to Montréal and talk to my wife about it. She didn’t like the idea of living in Halifax.

“I went back to Montréal, and my wife agreed to go back to Halifax with me if it meant I’d be playing a lot of games. But the Canadiens management never said anything to me, so I just didn’t go. I just waited for them to hand over a ticket back, and it never came.”

Dryden, a good friend of Thomas, visited the Canadiens in the dressing room. “I want some help,” Thomas said to Dryden, meaning help in answering questions from a crowd of reporters. “Come give me some help.”

Thomas clearly was his own man in goal. “I have far more confidence than last year – a bad goal like the first one tonight doesn’t get to me any more. I have the confidence to come out and challenge the shooter.”

Neither Thomas nor Leaf goaltender Ed Johnston had been defeated prior to last night’s game. The Canadiens have received plentiful criticism for their less-than-all-out performances, but the fact remains that they have lost only two games all year. Both were in the Montréal Forum, to the Leafs and to the Atlanta Flames, and with Larocque in goal.

Thomas, 26, has a National Hockey League record of 16 wins, one loss and one tie. In the four games leading up to last night’s he had allowed only five goals.

He showed why in the first period, when the Leafs came closer to being Flying Frenchmen than did the Canadiens. The Leafs had a 13-8 shooting margin. Thomas was stunned by a Garry Monahan shot immediately after another by Mike Pelyk. But Thomas continued with saves on Paul Henderson and, on the rebound, Norm Ullman.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first period. Darryl Sittler tucked the puck into the net with Thomas down, completing Inge Hammarstrom’s play. The Swede slipped past Canadiens defenceman Pierre Bouchard, but when he couldn’t hook in front of the goal, he slipped the puck to the edge of the goal where Sittler took over.

The Canadiens had a two-man advantage when they got their first goal. One shot by Guy Lapointe was blocked by Borje Salming, but he got the puck again and passed to Henri Richard, who shot through a screen for the goal.

The Canadiens went ahead 3-1 in the second period, with Thomas continuing to frustrate such Leafs as Ullman and Ron Ellis. David Keon hit the post early in the period. Leaf frustration continued as they had a two-man advantage for 13 seconds with no results. Goalie Johnston played at the blueline during hte 13-second span to keep the pressure on, but didn’t touch the puck.

Lapointe, a 19-goal scorer last year, got his first when Peter Mahovlich got the puck on a faceoff with Ullman and Bob Gainey passed back to Lapointe’s launching pad at the point.

Yvan Cournoyer made it 3-1 on another Canadiens power play. Leaf penalty killer Errol Thompson’s attempt to clear went to Jacques Laperrière, who shot in to Cournoyer at the goalmouth.

The Canadiens clearly had the firepower necessary to take over first place in the Eastern Division, but the key figure remained Thomas, who held them in the game until the power play went to work.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, November 24, 1975

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 05:23 – Sittler (Hammarstrom, Kehoe)
TOR PEN – 08:47 – Shack, hooking
TOR PEN – 09:15 – McKenny, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 10:38 – Richard (Lapointe, Gardner)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 03:44 – Richard, holding
MTL GOAL – 10:54 – Lapointe (Gainey, P. Mahovlich)
TOR PEN – 14:49 – Sittler, cross checking
MTL PP GOAL – 16:42 – Cournoyer (Laperrière)
MTL PEN – 17:25 – Wilson, elbowing
MTL PEN – 19:12 – Lapointe, tripping

3rd Period
TOR PEN – 06:04 – Neely, charging
MTL PP GOAL – 06:29 – Shutt (Laperrière, Lapointe)
TOR PEN – 08:01 – Salming, delay of game
MTL PEN – 10:31 – Robinson, hooking

MTL – Thomas (W, 36-37)
TOR – Johnston (L, 23-27)

MTL – 8+8+11 = 27
TOR – 13+11+13 = 37

MTLGoaltenders: Michel Plasse, Wayne Thomas. Defence: Pierre Bouchard, Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer, Bob Gainey, Dave Gardner, Glenn Goldup, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Chuck Lefley, Jacques Lemaire, Peter Mahovlich, Henri Richard (C), Steve Shutt, Murray Wilson.
TORGoaltenders: Doug Favell, Eddie Johnston. Defence: Brian Glennie, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: Ron Ellis, Inge Hammarstrom, Paul Henderson, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Lanny McDonald, Garry Monahan, Bob Neely, Eddie Shack, Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Norm Ullman.

MTL – 8-2-2 (.750)
TOR – 6-4-3 (.577)


Wayne Thomas (MTL)
⭐⭐ Guy Lapointe (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Norm Ullman (TOR)