Game 579 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1

Game 579
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1
Thursday, March 9, 1978
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Dave “Tiger” Williams came up with an accurate assessment of what separates the Montréal Canadiens from the rest of the teams in the National Hockey League after the Canadiens downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 here last night.

“If Guy Lafleur ever got sick and their defence ever got two or three bad injuries, Montréal would be down to a mediocre team,” Williams said after Toronto’s second loss in as many nights.

There is one problem with the pipe dream. Take away Lafleur, the NHL’s top scorer, and the NHL’s best all round defensive corps and you’re also left with a mediocre league.

There was nothing in the Leaf arsenal or game plan that could match the slick Habitants as Toronto played another very flat first period. The Leafs fell behind 3-0 on goals by Montréal’s Doug Risebrough and Réjean Houle as the Canadiens dominated and outshot them 18-4 in the opening 20 minutes.

From then on, the Leafs played a game of catch-up which never quite succeeded.

George Ferguson scored a second-period goal to narrow the score to 3-1, but a power-play line drive by Lafleur restored the advantage late in the second. As the Leafs pressed Montréal in the third, Rick Chartraw scored on a breakaway.

The Leafs were filled with praise for the Canadiens in explaining the loss.

“Last night (in Toronto’s 5-1 loss to Los Angeles) it was a matter of too many penalties in the first period. Tonight, we faced an entirely different kind of hockey team,” said Toronto captain Darryl Sittler.

“Their defence controls the game so that it’s hard to go in there and forecheck. We can break in and create constant pressure. Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson and Serge Savard are so big and mobile that some night you leave feeling like you haven’t done anything but skate round in circles chasing them.

“When you can get the puck out and not be in your own end all night, chances are you’re not going to lose.

“When we were getting the puck out, our forwards were standing still.”

Sittler’s run of consecutive points was stopped at 18 games, the longest in the NHL this season. He was faced most of the night with the checking combination of Doug Jarvis, Bob Gainey and Chartraw.

“I don’t think it’s so much putting Jarvis on me, but putting Gainey out to check my right winger,” Sittler continued. “I might get the puck, but then I’ve got no one to pass to.”

Sittler’s usual right wing-mate, Lanny McDonald, played with different partners. Montréal coach Scotty Bowman felt that move was an attempt by Neilson to make the Habs’ checking task most difficult.

“It is tougher to check Sittler and McDonald on two lines. But we’re fortunate to have Gainey and Houle (also a checking left winger), so that I wasn’t tempted to break up our checking lines,” Bowman said.

Larry Robinson, who won last year’s Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman, said that having Borje Salming as an adversary added something to the Montréal desire.

“We like to prove that we’re a little better against him,” Robinson said. “Nothing personal, but we like to show that our defencemen play as well as he can. What it comes down to is that one player can’t do it all. We had a good night because we worked so well as a team.”

Neilson said the Leafs’ flatness in first periods against Los Angeles and Montréal might have been caused by the recent crowding of the Toronto schedule. Last night was the Leafs’ eighth game in 13 nights.

“We’re missing the old zip, but we still could have done it. We hit a couple of posts,” said the Leaf coach. “I was pleased with the work of George Ferguson’s line against Montréal’s big scoring line.”

Lafleur’s goal came while the Leafs were playing a man short. Palmateer had Risebrough’s goal lined up, but the force of the shot caused the puck to squirt between his closing pads.

Rookie Ron Wilson rang a shot off the post late in the game. Pierre Larouche, playing a better defensive game after going to Montréal from Pittsburgh in exchange for Peter Mahovlich, saved a shot by Williams as it headed for the goal line with Dryden out of position.

Dryden made a daring charge to the blueline to poke check McDonald on a breakaway. Among Palmateer’s big stops was a save on Risebrough in the third period with Risebrough and Yvan Cournoyer in a two-on-one situation.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, March 10, 1978

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 02:32 – Risebrough (Robinson, Mondou)
MTL GOAL – 12:43 – Houle (Larouche, Robinson)

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 03:32 – Boutette, tripping
TOR GOAL – 12:23 – Ferguson (Boutette, Glennie)
TOR PEN – 17:55 – Salming, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 19:22 – Lafleur (Robinson)

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 19:10 – Chartraw (Robinson, Dryden)

MTL – Dryden (W, 25-26)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 35-39)

MTL – 18+9+12 = 39
TOR – 4+8+14 = 26

MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Larocque. Defence: Pierre Bouchard, Rick Chartraw, Guy Lapointe, Bill Nyrop, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer (C), Bob Gainey, Réjean Houle, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Pierre Larouche, Jacques Lemaire, Pierre Mondou, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt.
TORGoaltenders: Gord McRae, Mike Palmateer. Defence: Brian Glennie, Trevor Johansen, Mike Pelyk, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull, Ron Wilson. Forwards: John Anderson, Pat Boutette, Jerry Butler, Ron Ellis, Paul Evans, George Ferguson, Jimmy Jones, Lanny McDonald, Darryl Sittler (C), Stan Weir, Dave Williams.

MTL – 48-9-9 (.795)
TOR – 36-19-10 (.631)