Playoff Game 64 – Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3

Playoff Game 64
Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 1
Tuesday, May 2, 1978
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec

Les Canadiens mustered just enough scoring punch at The Forum last night to hold off Ken Dryden and the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-3, in the opening game of their Stanley Cup semi-final series. The Leafs were the lesser of the two obstacles for the defending champions.

The Leafs, playing with none of the fervor that enabled them to upset the New York Islanders four games to three in the semi-finals, were outshot by a scandalous margin of 36-15 and were fortunate to be within a goal or two for most of the game. Toronto goaltender Mike Palmateer helped keep the Leafs within hailing distance. So did Montréal goaltender Dryden.

A crowd of 16,363 – they can get in another 2,000 standees without resorting to a shoe horn – looked on, ringing sleigh bells and paying up to $18 each for the privilege. Game Two will be played at The Forum tomorrow, before the series moves to Maple Leaf Gardens for the first May playoff dates in Toronto’s long pro hockey history.

A pair of goals by Yvan Cournoyer moved him ahead of Bobby Hull and into fourth place on the playoff scoring list with 63 goals and 60 assists. Jacques Lemaire, Serge Savard and Guy Lafleur also scored for the Habs. Ron Ellis, Ian Turnbull and Pat Boutette made it interesting for Toronto fans, thanks to the shaky Dryden.

In contrast to the Leafs’ war with the Islanders, there was nary a punch punched, shove shoved or leer leered last night. Referee John McCauley brought whistle to lips only six times to assess minor penalties and there were no power-play goals.

“They didn’t goon it up like some other clubs do,” said Montréal coach Scotty Bowman. “They weren’t chippy like everyone was telling me they would be. Hey, they only got three penalties. Northing was dirty. They may have some players who are bigger than we are, but we have some players who are faster than they are.

“One thing the Leafs did well was clog up the front of their net. They give you the 50-footer because Palmateer is ready for those. I told the guys before the game that we should pass around it when they clogged it up.”

The Leafs found another way to clog the Montréal attack. Early in the second period, with the Canadiens leading 3-1 and holding an advantage in shots of 26-8, Doug Jarvis sped into the Leaf zone and moved around the defence. As he closed in on Palmateer, the Leaf goalie and forward Lanny McDonald cleverly picked up the net from its stanchions and threw it against the boards. It was the most effective tactic in the Toronto playbook all game.

“We couldn’t possibly have played any worse,” offered Leaf coach Roger Neilson, snappily attired in a new grey velour jacket. “We had two days rest, we shouldn’t have been tired, but we just weren’t sky-high tonight like we were against the Islanders. We just didn’t seem to want to hit. It isn’t that we didn’t have chances to hit them. It isn’t like they were skating right past us.

“I still say that the longer this series goes, the better it is for us, but not for the same reason as in the New York series. There it was conditioning, but that’s not going to be the case against Montréal. The Canadiens think they’re gonna blow us out four straight, so when we win a game they may start getting worried.”

If the Canadiens were worried as the game began, however, it was only about whether their hair was combed neatly and which side to turn toward the television cameras. Right from the opening faceoff, they swarmed around Palmateer like the little men in one of those table hockey games you operate with hand controls.

It took them 23 seconds before they were able to score a goal.

It was one of those 50-footers Bowman mentioned, but Palmateer had no idea where the puck was when Savard let the shot go from just inside the blueline. The front of the net was clogged up.

“Never saw it,” said Palmateer, not the least depressed despite the defeat. After all, the Leafs lost the first two games to the Islanders and rebounded to win four of the next five. “They don’t just stand there in front of me,” he added. “They just sort of cruise by, always circling and buzzing. I just sorta see them for a second or two and they’re gone.”

Strong work in the corner by Dan Maloney set up a goal by Ellis that tied the score at 2:25. Maloney absorbed a bump from Cournoyer without flinching, gathered in the puck and fed it to Darryl Sittler, who found Ellis for a flip shot over Dryden.

After the goal, Bowman decided to play it cute, sending out a forward line of Rick Chartraw, Pierre Bouchard and Gilles (The Towering Inferno) Lupien, thus serving notice on Neilson that naughty boys such as Maloney shouldn’t go around bumping nice little boys such as Cournoyer. The move backfired when Chartraw drew a cross-checking penalty less than 20 seconds after he hit the ice.

The Canadiens killed the penalty with ease, outshooting Leafs 3-0 during Toronto’s power play and nearly getting a shorthanded goal by Jarvis. By the midpoint of the period, only Palmateer’s diving, sprawling saves (or the plastic shield Islander coach Al Arbour claimed the Leafs take with them on the road) was keeping the Canadiens at bay.

They stayed at bay only until the 17-minute mark, when Cournoyer tipped in a wrist shot by Doug Risebrough to make it 2-1. Two minutes later, Bob Gainey threaded a perfect pass through the Leaf defence and sent Lemaire in on a breakaway for the Habs’ third goal. The period ended with the score 3-1; it might easily have been a 12-1. The Canadiens took 47 shots at the net and put 21 of them on goal. The Leafs managed five at Dryden.

Dryden, who had seen only seven shots in the first 28 minutes of the game, made his biggest contribution to the Leaf attack midway through the second period when he deflected a long, high slapshot by Ian Turnbull into the heart of the net. This woke up the Leafs, who checked effectively from then on and held Montréal to only seven shots on goal in the period.

The Leafs were held without a shot for the first 10 minutes of the final period, by which time the Canadiens had a 5-2 lead on Cournoyer’s second goal and Lafleur’s beauty. Pierre Bouchard’s high, high, high centring pass set up Cournoyer’s goal. Lafleur’s came after Leaf defenceman Trevor Johansen gave the puck away to Steve Shutt.

Dryden again kept the fans from leaving early when he tipped Pat Boutette’s shot into the net at 14:32.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, May 3, 1978

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 00:23 – Savard (Lafleur, Shutt)
TOR GOAL – 02:25 – Ellis (Sittler, Maloney)
MTL PEN – 02:43 – Chartraw, cross checking
TOR PEN – 08:42 – Carlyle, interference
TOR PEN – 12:59 – Johansen, holding
MTL GOAL – 17:06 – Cournoyer (Risebrough, Robinson)
MTL GOAL – 19:13 – Lemaire (Gainey, Robinson)

2nd Period
MTL PEN – 01:54 – Lapointe, elbowing
TOR GOAL – 08:27 – Turnbull (McDonald)
MTL PEN – 10:02 – Lafleur, tripping
TOR PEN – 19:05 – Boutette, slashing

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 03:14 – Cournoyer (Risebrough, Bouchard)
MTL GOAL – 08:54 – Lafleur (Shutt)
TOR GOAL – 14:32 – Boutette (Turnbull, Jones)

MTL – Dryden (W, 12-15)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 31-36)

MTL – 21+7+8 = 36
TOR – 5+4+6 = 15

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