Game 569 – Canadiens 7, Maple Leafs 5

Game 569
Canadiens 7, Maple Leafs 5
Wednesday, February 18, 1976
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Goaltender Ken Dryden, the Montréal Canadiens’ dressing room prophet calls it a slump.

Coach Scotty Bowman calls it giving up a lot of goals and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Red Kelly tagged it coughing up the puck.

All told, it spelled sloppy, uninspired hockey, but it did accomplish one thing. The Canadiens ended a three-game winless string with a 7-5 verdict of the Leafs before a crowd announced at, but in excess of, 16,485 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Scalpers hustled gold seats for $60 each for what has become the highlight of the Toronto hockey season.

The display lacked the defence of most Canadiens-Leafs games.

Dryden, until recently the carrier of a goals against average that held steady below 2.00, has been the victim of increasing attacks recently and it appears the Vézina Trophy he seemed sure to win is being slowly taken from his hands.

“We’re not sharp defensively. Any time you play below the level you’re capable of it has to be called a slump. I think our play of late fits the slump description. Times out there tonight we were lax and nowhere near the vicinity of the action,” Dryden said.

“Actually, anyone was capable of winning that game. We must control play to be successful. What we did tonight was open it up and, when you do that, all control goes and it often ends up in disarray.”

The Leafs’ goaltending has not been up to National Hockey League standards in the past 10 games. Gord McRae turned in a questionable performance and appeared paralyzed on at least three goals.

“We coughed the puck up on two of those goals, that’s for sure,” Kelly offered. “The defence doesn’t seem to have the same zest it had in the past. No, our goaltending hasn’t been as good as it was early in the season.”

The Leafs’ problem proved to be their inability to place a harness on the Habs’ top line of Steve Shutt, Pete Mahovlich and Guy Lafleur. The three accounted for 12 points as they each scored twice. Lafleur’s five points ran his league leading total to 91.

Guy Lapointe scored the Canadiens’ other goal with Scott Garland, Jack Valiquette, Errol Thompson, Dave Williams and Inge Hammarstrom scoring for the Leafs, who surprisingly outshot the Habs, 40-39.

“It’s obvious we’ll have to play it tighter,” Bowman said. “We’re giving up too many goals. Sure, if you score seven and the opposition scores five you win, but one of these nights we’re not going to score seven.”

The Canadiens jumped into a 3-0 lead after 4:40 of the first period and it appeared the Leafs were done. Even a pro-Canadien portion of the crowd in the Gardens knew it and were calling for more.

Garland’s goal with less than a minute to play in the period appeared to rally the sagging Leafs and they came out flying in the second period.

Valiquette, Thompson and Williams scored in rapid succession and the Leafs led 4-3 after 5:06 of the second period.

“A goal in the last minute of play sometimes acts like a psychological boost. It gives a team a big spurt coming into the next period,” Bowman said.

Dryden was more philosophical in analyzing the proceedings. “After we scored the three quick goals I think we were just kidding ourselves. We sat back and let the play flow. Then boom, the roof fell in.”

The Canadiens regained the lead when Shutt and Lambert hit for power-play goals and the Canadiens led 5-4 as the period ended. They increased the lead to 7-4 by the midway point in the third period before Hammarstrom got a goal to make it 7-5.

“I didn’t expect the quick start. We haven’t done that all that often this season. The key was to neutralize the Leafs’ top line (Thompson, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald) and we had little problem doing that,” Bowman said.

In fact, except for shifts immediately before and after Thompson’s goal, the line seemed lost. Sittler and McDonald didn’t have their usually competent games and the cause may be the beating they’re taking in supporting the rest of the lagging team.

Kelly, in the excuse of defeat, found fault with the officiating of referee Bryan Lewis, who didn’t have one of his better games. Although Lewis’ record is slightly above the Leafs’ 24-23-11 mark, Kelly said Lewis “didn’t know what he was looking for on certain calls.”

The Canadiens widened their Norris Division lead to 26 points over the second-place Los Angeles Kings and, according to Leafs vice-president KIng Clancy, will “win the whole bowl of cherries” come Stanley Cup time.

The Leafs head to Pittsburgh tonight for a match with the Penguins. The Leafs have failed to beat the Penguins in more than a year.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, February 19, 1976

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 02:48 – Lafleur (Bouchard, Shutt)
MTL GOAL – 03:06 – Lapointe (Jarvis)
MTL GOAL – 04:40 – Mahovlich
MTL PEN – 06:36 – Jarvis, hooking
MTL PEN – 09:18 – Mahovlich, high sticking
TOR PEN – 11:11 – Sittler, high sticking
TOR PEN – 14:11 – Glennie, interference
MTL PEN – 18:27 – Risebrough, charging
TOR PP GOAL – 19:04 – Garland (Hammarstrom, Salming)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 00:23 – Valiquette (Williams)
TOR GOAL – 01:27 – Thompson (Sittler)
MTL PEN – 02:55 – Mahovlich, roughing
TOR GOAL – 05:06 – Williams (Boutette, Valiquette)
TOR PEN – 06:31 – Neely, slashing
MTL PP GOAL – 07:50 – Shutt (Lafleur, Mahovlich)
TOR PEN – 16:01 – Williams, tripping
MTL PP GOAL – 16:05 – Mahovlich (Lapointe, Lafleur)
MTL PEN – 19:34 – Mahovlich, fighting major
TOR PEN – 19:34 – Williams, fighting major

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 01:29 – Lafleur (Shutt)
TOR PEN – 05:14 – Boutette, tripping
MTL GOAL – 11:06 – Shutt (Lafleur, Savard)
TOR GOAL – 14:35 – Hammarstrom (Weir, Turnbull)
MTL PEN – 14:58 – Savard, hooking

MTL – Dryden (W, 35-40)
TOR – McRae (L, 32-39)

MTL – 9+16+14 = 39
TOR – 15+13+12 = 40

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Larocque. Defence: Don Awrey, Pierre Bouchard, Guy Lapointe, Jim Roberts, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer (C), Bob Gainey, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Jacques Lemaire, Peter Mahovlich, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, Murray Wilson.
TORGoaltenders: Gord McRae, Wayne Thomas. Defence: Claire Alexander, Brian Glennie, Greg Hubick, Borje Salming, Rod Seiling, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: Pat Boutette, George Ferguson, Scott Garland, Inge Hammarstrom, Lanny McDonald, Bob Neely, Darryl Sittler (C), Errol Thompson, Jack Valiquette, Stan Weir, Dave Williams.

MTL – 41-9-9 (.771)
TOR – 24-23-11 (.508)