Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2
Saturday, November 11, 1978
Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Québec
Coach Scotty Bowman thought his Montréal Canadiens won because of their success at killing penalties. Toronto Maple Leaf coach Roger Neilson felt it was because of the penalties that were being assessed.
To the crowd of 17,998, it didn’t seem very important which coach had made the correct analysis. What mattered to the noisy and biased fans Saturday night was that the Canadiens had defeated the Leafs 3-2 and, in the process, extended their unbeaten stretch to seven games.
Actually, the largest crowd to witness a game at The Forum in this young National Hockey League season did not see a finesse-filled, end-to-end hockey match between these two old, established rivalries. They saw two fights and two player ejections that were accompanied by promises that scores would be settled when the two teams meet again.
The Leafs, who finished their six-game road trip with only two losses, almost tied the score late in the game. But their inability to lift the puck off the ice allowed the Canadiens, who had taken a 3-0 first-period lead, to hang on and register their 10th win in 16 games.
With 1:18 remaining, Neilson pulled goaltender Mike Palmateer for a sixth attacker – and the move almost worked. But during a scramble in front of the Montréal net, Lanny McDonald and Pat Boutette, who each had a swipe at the puck, failed to raise it and Ken Dryden, who was sitting on the ice, turned their shots aside.
The Leafs could have had more of a chance to tie the three-time Stanley Cup defending champions. But with 3:45 remaining, two defencemen jumped on to the ice during a line change – and Toronto was charged with having too many men on the ice.
“Ken (Dryden) made some good saves at the end,” said Neilson, “and we didn’t get the puck up when we needed to. But when there are too many men on the ice, it’s the coach’s fault.”
Neilson’s major concern, however, was not with the penalty that prevented Palmateer from leaving the game later than intended. It was, instead, with the penalty earlier in the third period that resulted in Dave Williams’ departure.
Twenty-eight seconds after the opening faceoff, before everyone had a chance to reach their seats for the final period, Williams and Doug Risebrough received minor penalties for high sticking. Seconds later, Darryl Sittler and Mario Tremblay started jostling, then fighting. Yvon Lambert decided to help Tremblay, so was ejected for being the third man in the fight.
While Sittler was getting a bloody lip, Williams, who was already in the penalty box, decided to step out and renew his feud with Risebrough. Referee Dave Newell, who was preoccupied with Sittler and Tremblay at the other end of the rink, skated over to the timekeeper, asked him what happened, then sent Williams to the Leaf dressing room.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen a timekeeper call a penalty,” said Neilson. “I don’t think it’s the timekeeper’s job. There is nothing in the rule book about it and none of the referees saw ‘Tiger’ (Williams).
“Newell was making his own rules during the game. We wanted a timeout after they (Canadiens) called one (with 78 seconds left) and he said we couldn’t because they had already called one. We wanted to pull Palmateer after they took their timeout, but he said we couldn’t because it was after a timeout. Too bad. We controlled the second half of the game. The second period was even and the third was ours.”
There was no doubt about that. In the first period, however, it took the Leafs almost eight minutes to get a shot on goal and they failed to capitalize on three power-play opportunities.
“Defence is what won it for us,” said Bowman. “We’re really checking very well now. We’ve only given up 11 goals in the past seven games. We had a great start and made it stand. It’s a good thing we decided to dress 12 forwards instead of 11.”
That is because the Habs were down to 10 forwards in the third period. Steve Shutt bruised his knee before giving Montréal a 1-0 lead at 3:07 of the first period by rapping a rebound past Palmateer. Shutt left the ice and club doctors decided that, although it wasn’t a serious injury, the talented forward should stay out for the game.
About seven minutes after Shutt’s goal, Réjean Houle scored while Leafs’ Ron Wilson was in the penalty box for interference. Guy Lafleur increased the lead to three goals at 18:56 on a two-on-one break with Lambert. After that, the Leafs started to take over.
While Palmateer was preventing the Habs from scoring again, Walt McKechnie was giving Toronto a chance for a comeback. He scored his fifth goal of the season early in the second period and his sixth 36 seconds into the third after taking a pass from McDonald on a two-on-one break.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen Montréal just hang on near the end,” said Leaf forward Bruce Boudreau. “We outplayed them most of the game. Just a couple of bad breaks in the first period hurt us.”
The Canadiens outshot the Leafs 30-29 but Toronto had a 12-5 margin in the third period. The team returned to Toronto Saturday night after hearing general manager Jim Gregory rehash Newell’s explanation that his two linesmen saw Williams leave the penalty box and heard Williams’ vow of vengeance against Risebrough.
“It’s been a disastrous day,” said owner Harold Ballard, who earlier watched his Hamilton Tiger-Cats lose 35-20 to the Montréal Alouettes in a Canadian Football League Eastern Conference semi-final.
It could be even worse than expected. Leaf centre Jimmy Jones hurt his shoulder during the game and the extend of the injury will not be determined until X-rays are examined.
Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, November 13, 1978
MTL GOAL – 03:07 – Shutt (Lafleur, Robinson)
TOR PEN – 03:48 – Butler, fighting major
MTL PEN – 03:48 – Houle, fighting major
MTL PEN – 07:56 – Lupien, high sticking
TOR PEN – 09:59 – Wilson, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 10:45 – Houle (Lafleur, Larouche)
MTL PEN – 11:38 – Lambert, boarding
MTL PEN – 15:30 – Lupien, hooking
MTL GOAL – 18:56 – Lafleur (Larouche, Lambert)
TOR PEN – 03:08 – Williams, charging
MTL PEN – 03:51 – Houle, tripping
TOR GOAL – 04:40 – McKechnie (McDonald)
TOR PEN – 07:11 – Turnbull, tripping
MTL PEN – 00:28 – Lambert, game misconduct
TOR PEN – 00:28 – Williams, high sticking + game misconduct
MTL PEN – 00:28 – Risebrough, high sticking major
TOR PEN – 00:28 – Sittler, fighting major
MTL PEN – 00:28 – Tremblay, fighting major
TOR GOAL – 00:36 – McKechnie (McDonald)
TOR PEN – 03:17 – Maloney, tripping
TOR PEN – 07:49 – Quenneville, tripping
MTL PEN – 07:49 – Langway, cross checking
MTL PEN – 08:54 – Lafleur, holding
TOR PEN – 11:00 – Maloney, roughing
TOR PEN – 16:15 – team, too many men on the ice
MTL – Dryden (W, 27-29)
TOR – Palmateer (L, 27-30)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 13+12+15 = 30
TOR – 8+9+12 = 29
TOR – Goaltenders: Paul Harrison, Mike Palmateer. Defence: Dave Hutchison, Trevor Johansen, Joel Quenneville, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull, Ron Wilson. Forwards: John Anderson, Bruce Boudreau, Pat Boutette, Jerry Butler, Jimmy Jones, Dan Maloney, Lanny McDonald, Walt McKechnie, Lorne Stamler, Darryl Sittler (C), Tiger Williams.
MTL – Goaltenders: Ken Dryden, Michel Larocque. Defence: Rick Chartraw, Rod Langway, Guy Lapointe, Gilles Lupien, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Yvan Cournoyer (C), Bob Gainey, Réjean Houle, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Yvon Lambert, Pierre Larouche, Pierre Mondou, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay.