Game 558 – Maple Leafs 9, Canadiens 2

Game 558
Maple Leafs 9, Canadiens 2
Wednesday, December 26, 1973
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Montréal Canadiens left Maple Leaf Gardens last night looking much the same as they had through most of their 9-2 loss – shocked.

The Leafs outskated, outhit and outplayed their opponents to a degree suggesting they, not Les Canadiens, should be the players named Henri, Yvan and Jacques.

“I cannot remember such a loss,” said a pale Claude Ruel, former coach and now Montréal director of player personnel. “At least, it gives a coach something to talk about. And not that I am saying it is a shame, because it is, but if you are going to lose badly it makes no difference what is the final score.”

Canadien coach Scotty Bowman made his feelings clear simply in the way he traversed the ice to the dressing room after the game. Steam issuing from his nostrils and ears floated him across, making walking unnecessary.

Ruel did remember a similar score in 1970 when the Canadiens were in the final game of the schedule and could make the playoffs only by winning, tying or scoring a sufficient number of goals to overcome the team with which they were tied in points for fourth-place. Losing badly, coach Ruel pulled his goaltender so early and so often that five goals were scored into the Canadiens’ open net, and the final score was either 9-2 or 10-2. The Canadiens missed the playoffs.

Last night, goaltender Michel Plasse, undefeated in seven earlier appearances, was in goal for all nine. The only thing was he had lost his ability to move on a couple of the late ones.

For the first 10 minutes the Canadiens appeared to be the same team that had gone 10 games without a loss. Leaf goalie Doug Favell had every indication the night was going to be difficult, with a key stop necessary on Guy Lafleur almost immediately.

But Paul Henderson aimed his conversion of a Ron Ellis passout to beat Plasse for the 1-0 lead. Murray Wilson tied the score less than a minute later, but Darryl Sittler fashioned a goal while on the seat of his pants before the end of the first period. Sittler’s pass, intended for Rick Kehoe, bounced off Pierre Bouchard’s skate into the net.

Rookie Lanny McDonald shot his sixth and seventh goals of the season, the only Leaf to get two goals. Fifteen players figured in the scoring.

Inge Hammarstrom, Bob Neely, David Keon, Jim McKenny and Kehoe were the other Leaf goal-getters.

Yvan Cournoyer shot the Canadiens’ second goal to make it 6-2 early in the third period, but what followed was indicative of the edge the Leafs enjoyed. Neely, finally hitting in a manner which attracted the Leafs’ attention to him as a junior, belted Frank Mahovlich with a hip check at the blueline. Neely then became over-enthusiastic and took a penalty for interfering with Mahovlich.

The Canadien power play, far from taking advantage, gave up a breakaway to penalty killer David Keon, off Garry Monahan’s pass, and Canadien defenceman Larry Robinson tripped Keon to prevent another trauma for Plasse.

Borje Salming was the outstanding player, much to the pleasure of players from the visiting Swedish team, FB Kaalstad, which is playing in a tournament here today. Salming earned two assists, came close to scoring his first National Hockey League goal by banging a shot off the post, but most important, played a superb defensive game.

In the second period, when the Canadiens were still thinking in terms of coming from behind, he swept the puck away from such players as Peter Mahovlich and Murray Wilson, blocked a hard drive by Jacques Lemaire, and decked Yvan Cournoyer.

The Leafs got encouraging work from McDonald-Neely and all of their rookies, however, and showed maturity as a team just as goaltender Ed Johnston predicted they would by Christmas. Johnston made his prediction October 17 when the Leafs defeated the Canadiens 5-3 in Montréal.

“Now, winning big here over a big team means so much,” Johnston observed, “because we have been playing much better on the road than here – the guys have been so tight here. Now, if we get the reputation of being tough to beat at the Gardens, it’s going to be difficult on other teams coming in.

“We lost in Boston last Sunday, but in all my years with the Bruins I never saw a Leaf team play better there. That had to be good for our poise.” The Canadiens found out.

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

1st Period
TOR PEN – 05:44 – Pelyk, holding
MTL PEN – 10:35 – Laperrière, tripping
TOR PP GOAL – 11:05 – Henderson (Ellis, Keon)
MTL GOAL – 11:50 – Wilson (P. Mahovlich)
TOR PEN – 12:17 – Kehoe, hooking
TOR GOAL – 19:06 – Sittler

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:58 – McDonald (Hammarstrom, Salming)
TOR GOAL – 02:38 – Hammarstrom (Sittler, Glennie)
TOR PEN – 09:25 – Sittler, hooking
TOR GOAL – 16:08 – Neely (Ullman, Pelyk)
TOR GOAL – 19:02 – Keon (Kehoe, Ecclestone)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 01:37 – Cournoyer (Lemaire, Bouchard)
TOR PEN – 03:00 – Neely, interference
MTL PEN – 03:36 – Robinson, hooking
MTL PEN – 07:23 – Laperrière, holding
MTL PEN – 08:40 – P. Mahovlich, tripping + misconduct
TOR PP GOAL – 09:47 – McKenny
TOR GOAL – 11:08 – McDonald
TOR GOAL – 12:07 – Kehoe (Monahan, Salming)
TOR PEN – 14:08 – Neely, boarding

TOR – Favell (W, 36-38)
MTL – Plasse (L, 36-45)

TOR – 16+13+16 = 45
MTL – 17+12+9 = 38

TORGoaltenders: Doug Favell, Dunc Wilson. Defence: Brian Glennie, Jim McKenny, Mike Pelyk, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: Tim Ecclestone, Ron Ellis, Inge Hammarstrom, Paul Henderson, Rick Kehoe, Dave Keon (C), Lanny McDonald, Garry Monahan, Bob Neely, Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Norm Ullman.
MTLGoaltenders: Michel Larocque, Michel Plasse. Defence: Pierre Bouchard, Jacques Laperrière, Guy Lapointe, Jim Roberts, Larry Robinson. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer, Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Claude Larose, Chuck Lefley, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Peter Mahovlich, Henri Richard (C), Steve Shutt, Murray Wilson.

TOR – 16-13-6 (.543)
MTL – 19-8-6 (.667)