Game 578 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2

Game 578
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2
Wednesday, December 21, 1977
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The battle over whether Montréal’s Larry Robinson or Toronto’s Borje Salming is the better defenceman took a sharp turn toward Robinson last night.

The large Montréal rear-guard scored two third-period goals to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win over Toronto before a hostile sellout crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The loss ended Toronto’s undefeated string at seven games.

Robinson’s goal quashed a Toronto comeback bid spurred by rookie Bruce Boudreau. The pesky little forechecker scored an unassisted goal to launch the Leafs’ surge from a 2-0 disadvantage. The other Toronto goal was by Darryl Sittler.

However, Toronto coach Roger Neilson felt it was far more significant that Borje Salming was missing from the Toronto lineup for the last four minutes and 40 seconds.

Salming was kicked out of the game by referee Bob Myers after faking an exaggerated plunge over the stick of Montréal’s Pierre Mondou. Salming had been called for tripping Bob Gainey on a similar play in the second period.

When his performance failed to catch the eye of Myers, Salming demanded his ear, perhaps by force. All he got was the thumb.

Salming, who never has been criticized in Toronto for anything more than a runny nose, became the focus of Roger Neilson’s explanation for the loss in the Toronto dressing room.

“We looked at the video and it certainly looked like a trip. However, Borje’s going to have to learn to control his feelings or else he’s going to cost us games. He may well have cost us this one tonight,” Neilson commented.

“The last four minutes of a game against Montréal is when we need him on the ice, not in the dressing room.”

Neilson said he felt the Leafs had controlled play well in the last two periods when they outshot the Canadiens 29-12. However, excellent play by Montréal goaltender Ken Dryden held the Leafs off the scoreboard until 11:26 of the final period.

Dryden criticized his own teammates after the game. He felt that his defence had been negligent once Guy Lafleur and Robinson had put the Habs into a 2-0 lead.

“We played the third period carelessly,” said the Montréal goalie. “We weren’t playing according to the time left in the game and the score of the match.

“We have the capacity to play as soundly as the Leafs do. When we had a two-goal lead, the idea is not to take anything remotely resembling a gamble.”

A gamble is exactly what Robinson took when Sittler scored the tying goal at 13:25. Lanny McDonald, already limping from blocking many shots in front of Toronto goalie Mike Palmateer, carried the puck into the Montréal end.

Robinson moved to check McDonald and left him sprawled on the ice. But, he left himself out of the play and Sittler cruised in to tie the game.

He atoned for the mistake with a goal in the final minute, banking a slapshot off the stick of Toronto defenceman Randy Carlyle.

The goal also helped fulfill a promise that belongs in a classic Christmas story. Robinson and Lafleur had spent the afternoon at the Hospital for Sick Children, visiting Jimmy Robinson. The 8-year-old boy is the son of Canadiens’ scout, Doug Robinson, whose hockey career in Halifax was ended by a stick in the eye.

The two players told the youngster they would score a goal for him.

There were fears for a brief time last night that Guy Lapointe’s career might also have been ended by an eye injury. Late in the second period, Lapointe was circling in front of the Montréal net when a slapshot from Brian Glennie glanced off the stick of Yvon Lambert and caught him in the right eye.

Lapointe flopped to the ice with his arms over his face, thrashing in pain. He rose about five minutes later with a big cut over his eyelid and a very pink eye. He still was able to see, but spent the night in Wellesley Hospital.

Palmateer played very strongly in the first period, facing 15 shots. Almost every one was a good scoring opportunity. Pierre Mondou tested him three times and was robbed once by a Palmateer stick check. The Toronto goalie showed dazzling reflexes in grabbing a hot drive from Bob Gainey. Lafleur beat him on a power play.

Dryden, meanwhile, stopped Errol Thompson on a first-period breakway. On one shift in the second, he stopped Thompson twice, and Sittler and McDonald once each.

Coaches Neilson and Scotty Bowman of Montréal played chess on ice throughout the game, altering lines to keep each other’s powers in check. Neilson tried to have Sittler on the ice against Lafleur, while keeping the tough-checking Gainey away from McDonald.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, December 22, 1977

1st Period
TOR PEN – 04:25 – Johansen, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 04:25 – Lafleur (Lemaire)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 02:02 – Lambert, interference
MTL PEN – 06:29 – Engblom, interference
TOR PEN – 06:41 – Salming, tripping
MTL PEN – 14:08 – Chartraw, interference

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 09:21 – Robinson (Lambert)
TOR GOAL – 11:26 – Boudreau
TOR GOAL – 13:35 – Sittler (McDonald, Thompson)
TOR PEN – 15:20 – Salming, misconduct
MTL GOAL – 19:12 – Robinson (Savard)

MTL – Dryden (W, 36-38)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 24-27)

MTL – 15+6+6 = 27
TOR – 9+16+13 = 38

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Larocque. Defence: Pierre Bouchard, Rick Chartraw, Brian Engblom, Guy Lapointe, Bill Nyrop, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Bob Gainey, Réjean Houle, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Jacques Lemaire, Pierre Mondou, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay.
TORGoaltenders: Gord McRae, Mike Palmateer. Defence: Randy Carlyle, Brian Glennie, Trevor Johansen, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: John Anderson, Bruce Boudreau, Pat Boutette, Jerry Butler, Ron Ellis, George Ferguson, Jimmy Jones, Lanny McDonald, Darryl Sittler (C), Errol Thompson, Jack Valiquette, Dave Williams.

MTL – 21-7-4 (.719)
TOR – 19-7-4 (.700)