Playoff Game 66 – Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 1

Playoff Game 66
Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 1
Stanley Cup Semifinals, Game 3
Saturday, May 6, 1978
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The stiff upper lips the Toronto Maple Leafs have displayed throughout the National Hockey League playoffs drooped rather low following their 6-1 loss to the Montréal Canadiens Saturday night.

The Leafs had been hoping that the third game of their semi-final series would lift them back into contention in their best-of-seven showdown with the Habs. This determination was evident even before the opening faceoff.

While a capacity crowd of 16,485 at Maple Leaf Gardens welcomed them home with a rousing standing ovation, the Leafs skated around the ice with such tenacity, that it appeared as though they were ready to take on the the Canadiens and an all-star team from the Soviet Union. It took the Canadiens 94 seconds of play to change that.

While Leaf defenceman Brian Glennie was in the penalty box for interference, Steve Shutt backhanded a rebounded into the open Toronto net, providing the first hint that the Leafs were embarking on a long, disappointing evening.

“They got that early goal on the power play and it seemed to knock the starch out of us,” said Leaf coach Roger Neilson. “There isn’t much else to say. We played bad against a great team. We have to regroup. If we win one, we can get back in this.”

The look of his players as they filed one-by-one out of their dressing room after the game conveyed a sharp contrast to the hopeful impression Neilson was trying to convey. Justifiably, they were frustrated, dejected and a bit dazed.

The door to their dressing room was closed to the press and they had little to say after leaving it. There was nothing to say. The Canadiens had just outplayed them in every positive aspect of the game, humiliated them and they knew it.

It was the first Toronto loss at home in the playoffs this season and it came from a team that proved convincingly its superior depth and experience. The Canadiens played more than half the game with only 18 players (one less than the roster allows) because Guy Lapointe suffered a bruised lower back early in the second period while being wrestled to the ice by Dan Maloney. The loss was hardly a detriment to the Montréal attack.

If Leaf goaltender Mike Palmateer had not been his usual stingy self, the Canadiens would have won by a greater margin. They led 3-0 at the end of the first period and 5-1 at the end of the second. The game became so one-sided by the second period Leaf owner Harold Ballard was beginning to yawn. With about seven minutes left in the game, fans started pouring through the exits.

Neilson decided to give the players the day off yesterday. It appeared Saturday night as though they needed the rest.

They enter tomorrow night’s fourth game of the series down 3-0 and facing elimination. Their goal is to do unto the Canadiens as the Detroit Red Wings did unto them in the quarter-finals – win one game at least.

The Canadiens returned to Montréal after the game and will not return until tonight. They displayed Saturday night how capable they are of overwhelming the Leafs.

Guy Lafleur, who led the Canadiens with two goals, credited the lopsided victory to the fact that the Leafs let them skate back and forth unharassed.

“The main thing for us was that everyone was skating, and we only get in trouble when we don’t skate,” he said. “But in playoffs like this, penalties are very important. We scored first on a power play and it’s tough to come back after that.”

The Canadiens swarmed around Palmateer so early in the game that Toronto became disorganized. The Canadiens caught them out of position a number of times. Referee Bruce Hood caught them with one too many players on the ice in the second period.

Neilson tried everything to inspire his players. He played defenceman Ian Turnbull on left wing beside Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald. He gave John Anderson, who replaced the injured Dave Williams, a couple of shifts. He even put on Jack Valiquette in the third period. It was to no avail.

The Canadiens fired 39 shots at Palmateer while the Leafs tested Montréal goalie Ken Dryden only 24 times. It took the Leafs three minutes to get their first shot on net.

“Their first periods are their best,” Neilson said about the Canadiens. “It’s been like that all season.” After that, he added half-jokingly, “they’re not a bad team.”

The Leaf coach spent yesterday trying to solve a problem to all NHL teams – how to defeat the Habs. Defenceman Borje Salming is out for the series because of an injury below his right eye. It is doubtful that Williams will be able to rejoin the lineup tomorrow night because of a knee injury. There is talk that Sittler has a hip injury he refuses to reveal.

After Saturday’s game it appears that Neilson will be hockey’s answer to Houdini if he finds the answer.

Rick Chartraw, Yvon Lambert and Jacques Lemaire each scored a goal for the Canadiens. George Ferguson scored Toronto’s only goal, near the midway mark of the second period by beating Dryden on the goalie’s glove-hand side.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, May 8, 1978

1st Period
TOR PEN – 01:20 – Glennie, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 01:34 – Shutt (Lafleur, Robinson)
TOR PEN – 03:40 – Glennie, slashing
MTL PEN – 03:40 – Shutt, slashing
TOR PEN – 10:16 – Carlyle, slashing
MTL GOAL – 13:09 – Chartraw (Gainey, Robinson)
MTL GOAL – 17:00 – Lambert (Cournoyer, Nyrop)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 08:50 – Ferguson (Carlyle)
MTL GOAL – 11:02 – Lafleur (Shutt, Lemaire)
MTL GOAL – 12:26 – Lemaire (Gainey)
MTL PEN – 15:35 – Savard, high sticking / cross checking double minor
TOR PEN – 15:35 – Butler, high sticking
TOR PEN – 16:56 – team, too many men on the ice
TOR PEN – 17:02 – Pelyk, high sticking
MTL PEN – 17:02 – Houle, slashing

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 05:08 – Lafleur (Lemaire, Shutt)
MTL PEN – 09:49 – Chartraw, holding

MTL – Dryden (W, 23-24)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 33-39)

MTL – 11+17+11 = 39
TOR – 8+9+7 = 24

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, 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: John Anderson, Pat Boutette, Jerry Butler, Ron Ellis, George Ferguson, Jimmy Jones, Dan Maloney, Lanny McDonald, Darryl Sittler (C), Jack Valiquette, Stan Weir.